Pawn King owner touts company's willingness to curtail criminal activity
The owner of the Pawn King store at 4150 Veterans Memorial Drive in Batavia says he would support a proposed county law designed to limit criminal activity as long as it doesn’t handcuff his efforts to maximize sales.
“As far as a local law is concerned, I really don’t have a problem with a licensing fee – which I believe is a money grab for towns – but the thing that I find to be constitutionally inappropriate is that a township can dictate the number of specific items we could buy (from one person) in a calendar year,” said Christopher Fernandez of Syracuse.
Fernandez and his wife own 10 Pawn King shops – five in the Syracuse area, and one each in Evans Mills (north of Watertown), Utica, Auburn, Buffalo and Batavia.
He spoke by telephone today as a follow-up to news that the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service and Ways and Means committees are backing a proposed law drafted by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman at the request of the Sheriff’s Office.
Local law enforcement contends that the law is necessary to assist police in finding and recovering stolen property, and apprehend those who steal other people’s property – and, in many cases, head to the pawn shop.
While the proposed law does include a provision for licensing (at a cost of $150 annually), it does not set limits on products bought and sold as referred to by Fernandez, who repeatedly said his company policy is to work with police agencies to catch criminals.
“While there are (currently) no requirements in Batavia for licensing, our purchase procedure is to collect 22 points of identification, and we will provide full disclosure (to police),” Fernandez said. “Anything they request, we can get. If they need to know who, when, an address, driver’s license, we have it.”
Fernandez said he invests around $25,000 per year for the Bravo computerized tracking system, or database, where “every single thing is reported.”
He said that he has data on 67,000 customers.
“The way to defeat crime is data collection, not limiting my efforts to make money,” he said. “If you limit me, you’ll just have others selling stuff from their trunks and have no data to track what is being sold.”
He mentioned LeadsOnline, a private company that is used by law enforcement to track the acquisition of used merchandise by dealers. He said he has LeadsOnline in all of his stores, except Batavia, but is willing to set it up if Batavia or Genesee County law enforcement wishes to purchase a subscription.
Fernandez also said his company’s policy requires sellers to sign a document dealing with the origin of the product(s).
“They’re breaking the law if they lie about it – it’s a misdemeanor – but because they’re signing my document, it goes from a misdemeanor to a felony change for falsifying records,” he said.
Among the businesses listed under the proposed local law’s definitions are secondhand dealers and pawnbrokers, tags that describe Fernandez’s shops.
“In Buffalo and Evans Mills, I have to have pawnbroker’s licenses, which includes bonding at an extra $1,000 per year,” he said, “but we do no pledged loans whatsoever … no loaning of money period. When I take something in, I buy it. But the previous owner has the first right to buy it back. There’s no contract, just a handshake agreement. We’ve established good relationships with our customers.”
Fernandez said the secondhand dealer designation fits his business model.
“In the other stores we have secondhand dealers’ licenses because we take used and sometimes new merchandise and move it on to the consumer – hopefully for a profit.”
When it was brought up by this reporter that the Batavia Pawn King has been accused of providing a list of goods it is interested in receiving from the Walmart across the street, Fernandez said that was “ridiculous.”
“That violates every single fiber of my company handbook,” he said. “We started this 15 year ago with a hole in the wall, a plastic table and copy machine, and we have built it by doing things the right way.”
A public hearing on the proposed local law is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Old County Courthouse. If it ultimately passes, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
Exemptions from the proposed law include garage sales, yard sales, estate sales and moving sales (with some stipulations), sales by nonprofit or charitable organizations, licensed auctions, jewelry and coin dealers (with stipulations), motor vehicles and legitimate antique/trade shows.
A link to a PDF draft of the law was included in a story posted on Nov. 20 by Howard Owens, reporting from the county legislature committee meeting. To access it, click here.