Holding period required for Harford pawn transactions

Pawnbrokers in Harford County will now have to wait 30 days before selling an item and will be required to keep records of their transactions for at least three years.

At least one Harford County pawn dealer called the new law impractical.

"Quite honestly, it will be pretty crippling for most pawn shops," Ed Wolf, owner of Associated Pawn Brokers on Route 40 in Edgewood, said. "A hold period would be the point where we would be bursting at the seams in less than 30 days."

The new law, approved Tuesday by the Harford County Council, will give law enforcement agencies a better chance of tracking down stolen goods, Capt. Dan Galbraith of the Harford County Sheriff's Office said.

It would apply in the county as well as the municipalities of Bel Air, Havre de Grace and Aberdeen, sheriff's office spokeswoman Monica Worrell said.

Galbraith told the council pawn transactions in the county have risen by more than 60 percent since 2010, and the county is the only one to not follow a state statute requiring a hold period.

"Currently Harford County is considered a soft county for the pawning and sale of stolen goods," he said. "The lack of a hold period allows items to be pawned and sold before people even realize they have been the victim of crime."

He said the legislation would help not just the Harford County Sheriff's Office, but all law enforcement, solve crimes.

Pawnbrokers will not be allowed to transfer or dispose of property for 30 days after the date the transaction is reported to the sheriff's office, although it may be redeemed or re-bought by the person who originally pawned the property.

Brokers must also file records with the sheriff's office and keep all records electronically for at least three years after the transaction date.

In 2010, Galbraith said, pawnbrokers, dealers and scrappers in Harford recorded more than 38,000 transactions and paid out more than $4.7 million.

In 2011, they recorded 62,000 transactions and paid out more than $7.2 million, he said.

"They can immediately take that item and sell it to the next person walking in the door," he said.

The hold period would apply largely to electronics, such as TVs and GPS systems.

Precious metals, like jewelry, already have an 18-day hold period, and sale of firearms would not be affected by this law.

Galbraith said all firearm transactions are determined on a state level, and Councilman Dion Guthrie said he is interested in finding a way to make people who are bringing in guns certify they own them.

He also said he wanted more information on gun transactions.

"This gun situation still bothers me," Guthrie said. "I don't want to hold this bill up but I would like to get that information because an amendment may be appropriate."

Wolf, owner of Associated Pawn Brokers in Edgewood, said his business is already overflowing with merchandise and the new law would be impractical, requiring him to potentially lease more space.

He said his shop processed more than 10,000 transactions within the past year, valued at more than $1 million, and very few of those items are believed to have been stolen.

He said only 315 of those items were confiscated, and 55 were returned. Wolf said he believes very few stolen goods are processed in Harford compared to other counties.

"Most pawnbrokers here will tell you that Harford County is like the country club of pawn shops," he said. "A lot less [of] that stuff goes on."

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