Chesterfield Township, New Baltimore and many Metro Detroit communities plan to join an online database that would keep electronic tabs of pawnshop and second-hand dealer inventory.
"It makes perfect sense for a police department to get involved with this because it gives you so much more information," township Police Chief Bruce Smith said Monday about participating in the private LeadsOnline database.
Pawnshop, second-hand dealers to register goods
An ordinance that is slated to go before the township Board of Trustees in early August or September for a final vote would allow the township to move away from a manual system of scouring pawnshop inventory and instead access detailed descriptions and pictures of the inventory remotely.
The idea is to find evidence from crimes, such as stolen jewelry to guns used in homicides, at the businesses throughout the region. Under the system, the businesses would have to enter goods it receives in the database that would then allow area law enforcement to see what's coming in and whether it pertains to criminal cases.
Although the township does not host any traditional pawnshops within its boundaries, police said it would have access to surrounding ones and would like the ordinance in place before any come to town. Additionally, it would apply to places like sporting goods and electronic stores that purchases used goods from the public to ensure no one is trying to exchange stolen items for cash, Smith said.
Online system draws criticism as well
Not everyone is in favor of the move to registering inventory online. Some critics say it will delay sales and place a bigger burden on businesses.
Chesterfield Township Play It Again Sports Manager Elizabeth Murphy said Tuesday the ordinance could unnecessarily hold up sporting good sales when seasonal merchandise is in high demand.
"We do know that our parent company is already working with the state of Michigan...to try to keep it from us doing any more than we're already doing," Murphy said.
She added that, if the township ordinance is passed, "it's going to be a detriment to us." Murphy pointed out the staff already requests to see driver's licenses and obtain phone numbers from anyone selling merchandise to them. That information, along with a summary of the item, is always turned over to the police. On average, something stolen comes through the business about three times a year, mostly worth around $25, she said.
Police say database is good resource, better for manpower
Smith also recognizes that there are many legitimate goods sold to pawnshops and second-hand dealers, but says the current system of manually checking them takes about 10 hours of manpower each week.
"I'm not saying that everything that goes there is stolen," he said. "But there are things that end up there as stolen and we just we're just trying to keep watch of it."
According to the LeadsOnline website, "More than 2,100 local agencies contract with LeadsOnline to bring all their pawn and second-hand stores online. Another 2,000 or so use our eBay First Responder Service. There are more than 30,000 detectives using LeadsOnline and LeadsOnlabs to do their jobs."
The chief says Chesterfield police would be one of many Michigan law enforcement agencies planning to join the system, including the Macomb County Sheriff's Office and other Macomb County agencies. While others in the state are already onboard.
New Baltimore police also wants to use the program later this summer, Chief Tim Wiley said Tuesday.
"It's an excellent investigative tool that is out there," said Wiley, adding he plans to request for the department to join the program in upcoming weeks.