MANKATO — A proposal to require Mankato’s second-hand stores to use theft-prevention software, as pawn shops are required to use, was the topic of vigorous City Council discussion Monday.
Public Safety Director Todd Miller said thieves around the country are increasingly selling their goods at second-hand stores, which aren’t subject to pawn shop rules requiring the documentation of every sale.
But owners of three second-hand stores told the City Council the software system is burdensome — in both time and a $1.50-per-item fee — and unfair, because most stores that deal in used goods would not be subject to the law. The ordinance excludes antique shops, vehicles, thrift stores and specialized stores like bike shops.
Todd Miller said those stores aren’t as likely as more-general second-hand stores to be a source for stolen goods.
“We don’t see a lot of business in stolen children’s clothing,” Miller said.
The proposed ordinance would only affect about four Mankato businesses. They include Lucky’s, Save Mor Jewelry and, perhaps, the newly-opened We Got Game, on S. Riverfront Drive.
Mankato Police Detective James Card told the council he was only aware of one stolen item recovered in a second-hand store recently. But it’s impossible to guess the true figure, in part because police have to actually visit second-hand stores to know what’s there.
Second-hand store owners said they are already trying to prevent theft.
Katie Nichols, co-owner of Lucky’s, said they tell customers that they use the pawn shop system, which involves a picture of the item being sold.
“Yes, granted, we are lying to them,” she told the council. But the lie keeps customers honest, she said.
After the meeting, Nichols said there were other options for police, but they wanted the system that was easiest for them.
“Why aren’t they worried about our convenience?” she said. Nichols said much of her business comes in remote-control cars, and cataloguing dozens of pieces would be burdensome.
Brad Lachmiller, co-owner of Quality Gold and Silver Trading Emporium, said a better system would involve giving second-hand stores access to police reports on stolen items.
He said he got out of the pawn business because employees were prosecuted for accidentally mis-labeling items in the software system, called the Automated Property System, or APS.
“They made us feel like criminals ourselves,” he said.
Police said extending the APS system to second-hand stores would make life harder for thieves.
“It can certainly hold some of the thieves and the burglars accountable and know there are places they cannot bring their property to,” Commander Matt DuRose said.
Since Jan. 1, 2011, Mankato police have recovered 187 stolen items using the APS system, with a value of $11,000 to $22,000, depending on whether the pawned or retail value of the goods is used.
Councilwoman Karen Foreman asked staff to meet again with the store owners to find a middle ground.
A public hearing will be held before any changes are adopted.