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Oswego pawn shop bill drawing criticism

Payne Horning
Matt Dawson, owner of Oswego's BNB Broker Buyer second hand shop, said he is skeptical that a proposed law before the Oswego Common Council could cut down on burglary.

In an attempt to crack down on burglary, Oswego is considering a bill that would require the city's pawn shops to keep better records of their business transactions.

Mayor Billy Barlow, who's leading the effort, said he has heard from too many frustrated residents who say Oswego police (OPD) often reach dead ends when looking for their stolen property.

"The homeowners say that 'I can’t believe the OPD can’t track this down,'" Barlow said. "'I can’t believe that they can get away with this so easily. Isn't there anything we can do?'"

So, he's proposing a law that would compel pawn shop owners to keep any items they buy for at least a week. And, they would have to maintain a detailed log of those items and from whom they bought them. Oswego Police Lt. Zachary Misztal said it could deter thieves from selling to pawn shops.

"If we make it a little bit more difficult for people who are stealing items to get a financial gain and we also make things more accountable to the establishments that are buying these items, it might reduce that distribution of stolen property," Misztal said.

Yet, it could also make things more difficult for the shop owners, like Matt Dawson of BNB Broker Buyer pawn shop, who is skeptical.

"Seriously? Is that going to make a difference whatsoever?" Dawson asked.

Dawson complied with a similar law when his shop was in Onondaga County, which is the inspiration for Oswego's legislation. Yet Dawson said his customers found the record-keeping, such as photocopying their driver's licenses, invasive. Plus, he said it was rarely used by law enforcement.

"We had the police come in and get information from us probably like only three times and I did hundreds of hours worth of work on organizing and keeping products for the seven days and knowing when I can sell them and things like that," Dawson said. 

Dawson said there's another problem with the proposed law: a week is not long enough for police to track down the stolen items. And once they are sold, they are typically gone for good.

Another local second hand shop owner, Frank Heagerty of Heagerty's Hot Spot, is not upset with the log requirement. In fact, Heagerty said his store already has records that date back 20 years. But he objects to the annual $250 fee second hand stores would have to pay under the law. Barlow said that will go toward the police's investigative efforts.

"No one likes to pay more in fees of course, but it’s really just essentially paying for the investigations that we’ll need sending police down," Barlow said. 

Councilor Pat McLaughlin said he wants to look at lowering the fee. The Oswego Common Council is holding a public hearing on the proposed pawn shop law, and subsequent vote, on May 9 in city hall.