Manatee sheriff urges stiffer rules for secondhand goods dealers

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 9, 2014 

MANATEE -- In an effort to impede theft and halt trafficking in stolen property, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube is hoping county commissioners will pass a more restrictive ordinance dealing with secondhand goods dealers.

"With high-dollar burglaries, they were dumping the gold at the secondhand dealer at the mall, and before we could even get there, it was gone," said Steube.

Michele Hall, general counsel for the sheriff's office, listed some changes the sheriff wants to current law:

• The dealer would be required to keep original transaction records, including the thumbprint of the seller, for five years instead of three.

• Photos of the seller, his government identification, and items sold would be required.

• The dealer would have to hold the goods 30 days instead of 15 on the premises where they were sold.

• Payment to the seller would have to be by check if the items sold in one day were worth more than $100. Now, there is no limit on cash transactions.

Steube said detectives can access a law enforcement database listing stolen property.

For instance, if a 27-inch Panasonic flat screen TV with a serial number was stolen from a house and later sold to a dealer, "We can put a hold on to it, and bring the victim down to ID it," the sheriff said.

If the TV were sold, deputies could more easily find the culprit if the dealer were required to take a photo of the seller, photos of his identification and a fingerprint, the sheriff said.

No photo of the seller is now required. The dealer only has to check a government ID, not photograph it, and provide a written description of the items sold, but not photograph them.

"I don't see where this is a big problem for people," the sheriff said, noting stiffer rules would provide extra clout for detectives investigating crimes.

"We have the common goals of reducing crime, and having the victim at least have an opportunity to get their goods back," Hall said.

County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she was concerned about unintended consequences of a stricter ordinance.

"A few changes will provide us with a much greater opportunity to get these things back before they're sold," she said.

A draft ordinance is slated for commissioners to consider at a public hearing Jan. 28.

"We have legitimate businesses out there, they're above board; consignment shops that sell clothing, home goods, golf clubs. And a lot of us use them," she told the board.

"These are legitimate businesses, they pay sales tax, they're good business people. We don't want to hinder them, because right now, it's tough enough on our small business owners," Baugh said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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