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Amid Heroin Epidemic, Lawmakers & Pawn Shops Look to Curb Sales of Stolen Items

Citing the growing number of heroin addicts trying to sell stolen items, a coalition of law enforcement and some pawnbrokers proposed legislation last week that would require the daily transaction at pawnshops to be entered into a database accessible to police.

“Unfortunately, the drug epidemic is driving the necessity of people to take things they may or may not own to pawnshops,” Jessamine County Sheriff Kevin Coreman said when testifying in support of the proposal before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations.

Kelli Neafus, who spoke on behalf of the Kentucky Pawnbrokers Association, testified that she has concerns about specific language in the proposed legislation that would require the Social Security number of all people who have pawned or sold something to be entered into the database.

“I believe that is stepping on privacy issues,” said Neafus, who is also a longtime Louisville pawnbroker.

Sen. Dan “Malano” Seum (R-Fairdale) agreed with Neafus on the Social Security numbers issue.

“I was a small neighborhood businessman myself for 30-something years, and I can’t imagine having one of my customers come into my place and me having to ask for their Social Security number," Seum said. "That seems to me a little over the top and pretty intrusive.”

He said his colleagues must keep in mind that a local pawnshop is the “poor man's bank.”

“It is already tough for some of these people to get financing on certain items and I don’t want us to make it any more intrusive than it is,” Seum said.

He said recording the seller’s driver’s license number, also required in the proposal, should be enough to discourage the sale of stolen items. The proposal would also require pawnbrokers to record the make, model, color, size, manufacturer, vintage, and distinguishing marks or characteristics of all merchandise pawned or sold in addition to taking pictures of the item.

Seum also questioned a provision that would require pawnbrokers to hold any item purchased from a customer for 12 days before reselling it. Neafus said some jurisdictions already require a hold period, but it needs to be standardized across the state.

Neafus added that pawnbrokers would also like the proposal to indemnify them of all liability if the database is hacked by identity thieves.

Rep. Jerry T. Miller (R-Louisville) suggested the proposal require the recording of serial numbers into the database.

“If an item has a serial number, I think it should be required because that’s a dead lock,” he said.

Rep. Kim King (R-Harrodsburg) testified in support of the proposed legislation. She introduced a similar measure, called House Bill 23, during the last session.

“We really appreciate your accommodation and your patience with us as we try to write a wonderful bill that’s going to be both a benefit to our law enforcement and all of our law-abiding citizens,” she said.

Committee Co-chair Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) said last session ended before the state Senate could act on House Bill 23. He said his hope similar legislation would be introduced in the upcoming session that addressed the concerns of all involved.

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Heroin needles found in Covington (RCN file)