Councilmember proposes changes to pawn shops, to cut down on thefts

SEATTLE – Police and city council members in Seattle are making an aggressive effort to stop the rise in property thefts. Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, is proposing changes to the law on how pawn shops do business. But not everyone thinks that will make a difference when it comes to recovering stolen goods.

Tana Whidbey knows all about the rising crime in Seattle. Her Columbia City home was burglarized four times last month.

“It feels like it`s spiraling into something worse than I’ve ever seen before, with the amount of violence and break-ins,” she says.

That’s unacceptable to Councilmember Bruce Harrell. Today, he proposed changing the way pawn shops operate, to help police and victims recover stolen property. He wants to require shops to take photographs of all jewelry brought in and log all transactions to a central database like Leads Online.

“I think the council members’ hearts are in the right place,” says Jerry Duruz, one of the owners of Jerry’s Jewelry and Loan.

But he doesn’t think more rules will make any difference. He says he’s already checking his customers and what they bring in.

“They have to give me a state issued photo ID, and they have to give me their right thumb print,” he says. ”Most criminals don’t want to bring me stolen merchandise, because there’s a paper trail.”

Duruz says another proposal, that shops can’t give cash to sellers of cell phones or tablets, will hurt his business.

“No one will bring in their merchandise and want a check, they want cash. A lot of my customers don’t have bank accounts.”

Duruz has noticed the increase in burglaries and other property crimes. But he wants lawmakers to know that he’s not part of the problem. Sometimes he’s another victim.

“I have to watch out for my business, because a criminal is not only looking to rip off people, they’re looking to rip off me.”

Councilmember Harrell says he will continue to work with police and prosecutors on ideas to be more aggressive on home invasions. He’s hoping to present legislation in early 2015.