County officials hope a proposed local law will make it harder for thieves to sell stolen property.
The law will be presented for the first time to the County Legislature at Monday's Public Service Committee meeting.
It would require certain secondhand retailers to:
Obtain a county license through the County Clerk's Office;
Maintain records of sellers and items sold, including pictures of precious metal items;
Obtain and examine a photo ID;
Make a daily report to the Sheriff's Office of items purchased from sellers;
Not purchase items from people under the age of 18;
Retain items purchased without reselling or altering them for 10 days;
Report suspicious sellers to law enforcement.
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the proposed law went through a diligent review process that included looking at the successes and failures of similar laws in other jurisdictions.
Assisting in crafting the law were County Clerk Don Read, County Attorney Chuck Deputy Chief Jerome Brewster from the Sheriff's Office and Batavia PD Det. Pat Corona.
There have been burglaries solved in communities, like Rochester, because of such laws, Friedman said, which is why local law enforcement officials came to him with a request to draft something for Genesee County.
The law would also help the victims of theft recover stolen property.
We spoke to the DA just before the sentencing of Ryan P. Johnson -- who admitted to stealing $68,000 in precious family heirloom jewelry from a Batavia resident but the thief could only help recover $14,000 of the stolen items.
"We'll try to get restitution for the victim, of course, but what's that worth?" Friedman said.
A similar law in a Southern Tier county was eventually repealed because it was overly broad, Friedman said, taking in, for example, flea markets.
The proposed Genesee County law carefully defines covered businesses as pawn shops, precious metal dealers, transient merchants that deal in such items and scrap metal processors (scrap metal processors are exempt from a couple of the law's provisions, such as retaining items for 10 days).
"We tried to come up with a list who is affected by this and we came up with 10 businesses," Friedman said.
Those 10 business owners will be receiving invitations to attend a public hearing on the proposed law once the date is set.
The typical residential garage sale person isn't covered by the law, nor are thrift stores, which don't buy items for resale.
Reputable dealers will welcome the new law, said Jimmy Vo, owner of Batavia Gold Rush, at 4152 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.
Reasonable people, he said, don't want to see victims lose valuables and the law will put all of the secondhand dealers on equal footing, with all purchases handled the same way.
There are a couple of aspects of the proposed law Vo would like to see changed before it passes, however.
First, pawn shops, he said, should be required to hold typical retail items for 14 days before reselling them, while precious metal dealers (or pawn shops buying precious metal) should be allowed to sell those metals seven days after purchase.
Any delay in reselling gold, for example, puts a precious metal dealer at risk, he said, because prices can fluctuate quickly.
One day last week, he said, gold lost 20 percent of its value.
"Anybody holding gold lost his shirt that day," Vo said. "The longer you hold gold, the more you can lose."
Seven days should be enough time, he said, for law enforcement to help a victim identify and recover an item, but the proposed 10 days makes the delay unreasonably long.
Vo also takes issue with the requirement that dealers report suspicious sellers. He said New York has previously tried to get such laws through, but they don't work because just somebody is twitching, for example, doesn't mean a peson is on drugs. A police officer has to meet a higher level of probable cause to arrest somebody, so a dealer can't be expected to act as a law enforcement officer just because somebody is acting suspicious.
Overall, Vo said he's happy with the proposed law. As a one-time crime victim himself, he thinks it's important to give victims a tool that will help law enforcement capture criminals and victims recover stolen property.
Often times, the personal value of the property far exceeds any monetary worth.
"That ring that belonged to great-great-grandma may be worth only $100, but it can't be replaced," Vo said. "That's the gut-wrenching problem that can be solved with a law like this."
UPDATE 10 p.m.: We didn't get a chance to talk with Det. Pat Corona before writing the story, but he called us tonight.
Corona said it's his hope that the law will act as a deterrent to would-be burglars, help law enforcement solve crimes, help victims recover property, be convenient for resellers and serve the community better.
"My motive is help victims recover their property and help us hold people responsible," Corona said.