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Musical instruments and firearms are among the merchandise at the Pawn King store in the Chancellor area.
Spotsylvania pawnshops now keep purchase records in a written log. A county proposal would require shops to keep electronic records--including digital pictures of pawners.
Kenny Roach (right), manager of Pawn King, inspects merchandise in his store on Friday. Spotsylvania County supervisors may revise ordinances to put limits on the number of pawnshops and to require electronic records.
Thinking of opening a pawnshop in Spotsylvania County?
If so, you may be running out of time.
The Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of Sheriff Roger Harris, is considering limiting the number of pawnshops in Spotsylvania to four.
The county would grandfather in its six existing pawnshops, which means three would have to close before another could open.
Not all county officials agree with the four-shop limit, but pawnshop owners interviewed for this story said they didn't have a problem with the idea of fewer potential competitors.
Supervisors are also considering a requirement that pawnbrokers take digital pictures of pawners or sellers and of the items pawned or sold. A bill to mandate the digital pictures statewide failed this year in the General Assembly.
Spotsylvania Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely said he supports the proposals.
"Too many pawnshops equals too many opportunities for drug addicts to dispense stolen goods and results in an increase in burglaries and larcenies in the county," he said.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Holbert Building, 9104 Courthouse Road.
Spotsylvania officials haven't provided any data to support the proposals but say other localities have restricted new pawnshops as allowed by state law.
Stafford and Culpeper counties have set limits on pawnshops at five and 10, respectively, Spotsylvania County Attorney Jacob Stroman said.
Spotsylvania Sheriff's Detective Brent Riley said the department, which manages and grants permits to pawnshops, wants to limit them for practical reasons. "With the number of shops that we have right now, we are absolutely tasked to our maximum," he said.
Spotsylvania Supervisor Timothy McLaughlin, however, said at a recent board meeting that he doesn't think the county should decide who should be in business.
"I don't know that we should be in the position to limit free enterprise," he said. "Let the free market determine whether or not pawnshops can survive."
The proposals affect existing pawnshops, too.
Pawnbrokers would have to keep electronic records of transactions--including digital pictures of pawners and items pawned--and file them with the Sheriff's Office through an online reporting program. They would be required to keep the records of gems and precious metals transactions for two years and of all other deals for a year.
Kenny Roach, manager of Pawn King, had a nonchalant reaction to going electronic: "If we have to do it, we have to do it."
But Anthony Ball, owner of B&B Pawn, has some problems with the proposals. Requiring electronic records would save the Sheriff's Office time, he said, but increase his workload.
"As long as we have proper bookkeeping, we should be allowed to use a pencil, a computer, or anything else we choose," Ball said.
The Sheriff's Office purchased an online reporting program that pawnbrokers can use at no cost, but just half of the county's pawnshops have used it. The report says it's time-consuming for Sheriff's Office employees to enter the records by hand.
The electronic system "is a lot more efficient and requires less personnel from the Sheriff's Office, which of course saves the county money," said Neely, the commonwealth's attorney.
Ball also said he doesn't like the proposed rule that he take digital pictures of pawners and the items being pawned.
State law already requires him to keep detailed records of transactions, he noted, including descriptions of the pawners and of the items pawned.
"People do not like to have their photos taken," Ball said. "The more secure and the more at ease you make somebody feel, the better business is."
Stroman, the county attorney, said localities that mandate digital pictures include Winchester, Richmond and Fairfax city and the counties of Henrico, Goochland and Fairfax.
Sheriff's Capt. Mike Harvey said he thinks that requirement would send a strong message to thieves.
"This is also going to help the pawnshop owners ensure that they are dealing with honest customers," he said.
Ball, the pawnshop owner, said there are plenty of other places where people can sell stolen goods. Pawnshops, he said, are unfairly singled out.
"Most are really nice, clean, reputable businesses, but people always associate stolen property with pawnbrokers," he said. "I think we kind of get picked on."
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
People give items to pawnbrokers as collateral for loans. If the pawners don't pay back the loans with interest, the pawned items become merchandise for sale. Pawnbrokers will also buy items from people for resale.
The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors is considering numerous changes to the county's pawnshop ordinances. They include:
Limiting the number of pawnshops in the county to four. The county would grandfather in the six existing stores, which means three would have to close before another could open.
Requiring pawnshops to keep electronic records, including digital pictures of pawners and the items pawned. The records would have to be filed with the Sheriff's Office within 24 hours of the transactions. Pawnshops would have to abide by this requirement within six months of its adoption.
Increasing the application and renewal fee for gems and precious metals licenses from $200 to $500.
Increasing the retention period of gems and precious metals from 10 to 15 days from the time the transactions are reported to the Sheriff's Office.