LITTLE VALLEY - Cattaraugus County lawmakers sitting on the public safety committee want to give law enforcement a chance to find items that may have been taken from people's homes before they are sold.
William Aiello, a member of the committee, said he recently attended a law enforcement conference when he found out two people from Cattaraugus County were selling items to pawn shops in other states. Knowing there have been recent burglaries in the county, he wondered if there may be a connection between people selling stolen items elsewhere and the items taken. In case there is such a connection, he wants to help people retrieve items that may be important to them, but Aiello said he is aware that some pawn shops melt down gold or other items once taking ownership of them.
That makes it difficult for people to track down items, he said.
For instance, Aiello said, if a person comes home from a vacation to find their home burglarized and reports that to law enforcement, they may not have time to see if the items were sold at a pawn shop before they are melted down or sold again.
Upon his return from the conference, he discussed the matter with local law enforcement officials, some of whom told him they would favor passing a law to regulate pawn shop sales. He took the concern to other public safety committee members during a recent session.
Aiello said public safety committee members decided to draft a law requiring pawn shops to hold items for 10 business days before selling them so law enforcement officers have a chance to look at items and see if they coincide with descriptions of stolen items that have been reported to them.
If a person comes home from a vacation to find their home burglarized and reports that to law enforcement, they may not have time to see if the items were sold at a pawn shop before they are melted down or sold again.
He said if someone has an heirloom, the item may hold sentimental value or be irreplaceable to them, and he just wants to give them a chance to find the item.
"It's another tool (for law enforcement)," he said.
Aiello said he hopes the law can be approved by Cattaraugus County legislators before the first of the year. Since the idea for it has received the endorsement of law enforcement and some legislators sitting on the committee, he said the county attorney will check with state and federal authorities to make sure the law meets their standards. If so, the drafted version will be reviewed by law enforcement again getting an examination by lawmakers serving on the public safety committee. Once given the okay by all of those people, the law will go before the full legislative body, who will vote on whether it should be put in place in Cattaraugus County.
Jeff Hernandez owns Pawn It in Salamanca. He said he questions why the law would target just those shops, adding people sell items to jewelery and other store.
"They should all be under the same set of rules," he said.
"It's ridiculous," said Clyde Bell, owner of Bell's Coin Shop in Olean. He said pawn shop operators already have to fill out sheets naming transactions for the police. Therefore, he questioned why the law is necessary and voiced concern about why second-hand stores or others do not face similar scrutiny.