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Scarborough a step closer to pawn shop, tighter controls on dealers

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Scarborough a step closer to pawn shop, tighter controls on dealers

SCARBOROUGH — A proposed ordinance before the Town Council would legalize pawn shops in certain parts of town.

But it stops short of a Police Department recommendation to extend some reporting requirements to all second-hand shops.

The council first faced the issue last fall, when business owner Tom Bennett attempted to open Coastal Pawn & Gifts in the Southgate Plaza at 426 Route 1.

Bennett said the town initially told him there would be no problem. But after signing a lease, he said he was told in mid-October that he would have to obtain a license from the state, making a local ordinance unnecessary.

When Bennett pursued the state license, which costs thousands of dollars and is geared toward lending institutions, he said he was told that the state also requires a local license, bringing him back to the town for assistance.

In the meantime, he opened his store as Coastal Trading & Gifts, selling a combination of new items along with second-hand jewelry, tools and other items he buys outright.

Since his first appeal in November, Bennett has been a fixture at council meetings, speaking at every opportunity to keep his face and his cause in front of the public by giving updates on his business and inviting councilors to visit his store.

On Wednesday, he was there again as the council held its first reading of the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance would allow pawn shops in the B2 and B3 zones – along Payne Road near the Scarborough Gallery and Sam's Club, and along Route 1 from Dunstan to the Orion Center.

In part, it would require pawn brokers to record transaction information, including a scan of a customer's photo identification and to report details of all pawned merchandise to the police within 48 hours.

It would also require them not to hold merchandise they've purchased outright for at least 15 days, a component Bennett argued against, but the council appeared to support.

At an ordinance committee meeting last week, the Police Department proposed expanding the scope of those requirements to include second-hand shops.

"It was important to bring to their attention the need to either address the second-hand shop situation or create another ordinance that would handle the second-hand dealers," Chief Robert Moulton said Wednesday. "It's become more and more commonplace for these burglars looking for a quick cash return to go to these places and unload their goods."

Though Moulton said they have not had that problem so far at second-hand shops in Scarborough, they have "been the benefactor" from ordinances in other towns because they've traced sales of merchandise back to items stolen from residents of Scarborough.

"A fair amount of burglars we run across do, in fact, use that as a method of getting their cash," he said. "There may be some (who use Craigslist or eBay), but our experience is they want to turn merchandise into quick cash so they can buy drugs or alcohol. In some cases it may be more of an issue with second-hand dealers than pawn shops – with pawn shops they don't get as much money."

Another reason for choosing second-hand stores over pawn shops is because criminals know pawn shops must keep records and hold items for a length of time before selling them, he said.

But Moulton said the police agreed with the committee's decision to first address the pawn broker ordinance and consider crafting a second ordinance governing second-hand shops. In the meantime, he said he plans to contact local second-hand shops to learn how they might be affected by the change and to figure out the best way to implement monitoring.

In a phone interview Wednesday, ordinance committee Chairwoman Councilor Karen D'Andrea said the committee chose not to include second-hand shops in the pawn broker ordinance, but to hash out the details for a possible ordinance in the future. She said they needed to use caution to prevent situations that could arise from something as benign as a yard sale.

"You've got to take such great care in crafting (ordinances) so you don't end up with some of these bizarre, unintended consequences," she said.

The council will hold a public hearing and second reading of the pawn broker ordinance at its next meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.