Westminster expands pawnbroker reporting to cover electronic kiosks

The Westminster City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday that will expand the police department's database of items sold to a pawn shop or secondhand dealer that police use to track down stolen items.

Under the ordinance, owners of electronic kiosks, such as the two ecoATMs at the Town Mall of Westminster, will now be required to report their transactions to the police department.

The ordinance expands upon existing city law, enacted in 2008, which requires city pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers to report their transactions to police.

While police chief Jeff Spaulding did not provide statistics on whether stolen electronics were frequently being exchanged at the ecoATMs, he said the kiosks have "significant potential" to be an avenue for thieves to receive cash for stolen goods.

Recently, a cell phone was stolen off a store counter at the mall and the thief immediately took it to the kiosk in exchange for cash, Spaulding said.

At an ecoATM, a customer plugs in their device to ensure it works before swiping a credit card, having their picture taken and having their thumb print scanned. Customers are then offered a price on their items and, if accepted, they are paid cash on the spot.

The kiosks are operated remotely from San Diego, according to Spaulding.

Spaulding said ecoATM officials have cooperated with the city police when the department has requested information on previous transactions.

But without ecoATM reporting its transactions regularly, the police department has no way of knowing whether a stolen item could have been exchanged there, he said.

Spaulding said the database of items sold through city pawnshops has been instrumental in solving stolen item cases since its creation.

Just last month, the police department closed five cases using pawn shop data to recover $12,500 worth of stolen items, he said.

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