An amended Bill 17-006, which tightens Harford County regulations on pawnbrokers to make it harder for heroin addicts to pawn stolen items, was passed by unanimous vote of the Harford County Council Tuesday evening.
The final version of the bill has three amendments, which were approved Tuesday, that make the process of compliance slightly easier for shop owners.
Councilman Mike Perrone, a co-sponsor of the bill, acknowledged the issue of government regulating business transactions, and he stressed county leaders understand the "vast majority" of transactions conducted in pawnshops do not involve stolen items.
"We also recognize that the various paths that stolen property tends to travel as it makes it way through society tend to converge at places like pawnshops," he said.
Perrone said in that case, "it might make sense to introduce more laws and regulations at those points to ultimately try to bring down the cost of theft across society."
The bill has been controversial, as several pawnshop owners argued during a May 2 public hearing that it was putting too large of a burden on a business that is already highly regulated.
People whose loved ones have stolen from them and pawned the items for cash to support their heroin addiction argued in favor of the bill, however, including one woman whose daughter died from an overdose.
Under the legislation, shop owners must report all transactions to the Sheriff's Office and provide detailed reports, with photos, on each item that comes into their stores.
They must hold the items for 30 days after the transaction is reported, unless the person who brought an item in buys it back. Law enforcement can request that an item that is part of a criminal investigation be held and not be sold or transferred to anyone during that investigation.
Shop owners must have video surveillance in their shops and store the footage in case it is needed for an investigation.
The council approved three amendments to the bill that its lead sponsor, Councilman Patrick Vincenti, said came from extensive conversations with business owners, their advocates in local chambers of commerce and business organizations, the Harford County Sheriff's Office and the State's Attorney's office.
The first amendment shortens the time that video footage must be stored digitally from 150 days to 60 days. The second amendment allows shop owners to inform a customer if the item they are pawning is being held for an investigation and that the customer should contact law enforcement for more information.
The third amendment allows minors to purchase an item from a pawn shop, but they cannot bring in an item to be pawned, according to Vincenti.
"The amendments that were put forward and approved tonight were a result of the conversation and input that we had with many partners," he said.
Perrone expressed his support for the legislation, too.
"I think that this bill was well thought out, I think the amendments that were introduced and passed here tonight do a good job of refining it, and I support this legislation," he said.
Council President Richard Slutzky certified Bill 17-006, as amended, as "being the text finally passed."
The bill will become law when signed by the county executive, and it will take effect 60 days later, according to the legislation.