Although five speakers Tuesday afternoon pleaded with them to scrap all or parts of a new ordinance governing secondhand transactions involving precious and other metals, the Sarasota County commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the changes, with only one concession to the speakers: a delay in the effective date from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1.
Wayne Applebee, the county’s criminal justice policy coordinator, explained at the outset of the meeting that Sheriff Tom Knight’s intelligence-led policing approach to law enforcement had produced significant information about theft of precious and other metals spurred by drug abuse and overseas demands. Lt. Charlie Thorpe, of the Sheriff’s Office, explained in an interview in October that Det. Dan Valentino had pulled together statistics showing an increase over the past year in burglaries involving jewelry, coin collections and pharmaceuticals.
As a result of those efforts, Applebee said, the Sheriff’s Office had requested the county update its 1993 ordinance governing the activities of secondhand dealers. However, when he and Thorpe addressed the commission Oct. 11, commissioners felt the language in the proposed ordinance was not specific enough. Applebee said he had worked with the Sheriff’s Office and Assistant County Attorney David Pearce to improve the language and to split the ordinance into two parts.
Moreover, Applebee said, because of complaints about the constraints that would be imposed on rare coin dealers, the ordinance on secondhand dealers and secondhand goods no longer would apply to them.
Among its provisions, the new ordinance requires secondhand dealers to hold any items for 30 days, a requirement with which pawnbrokers must abide, and it stipulates that no secondhand dealer may pay an individual more than $100 in cash at one time. The ordinance also requires dealers to transmit detailed data about the sellers to the Sheriff’s Office over the Internet by 10 a.m. the day after a sale. Dealers must obtain a fingerprint of each seller as well as a clear image of the person, but those images may be retained on site, Thorpe said.
All those measures, Thorpe told the County Commission Tuesday, “are vital to our ability to increase the recovery of stolen property” as well as to discourage addicts from stealing jewelry to get quick cash to support their habits. “The 30-day hold system, we believe, is critical,” he added, although the state calls for just a 15-day holding period in its current statutes.
However, Robert Turffs, an attorney representing Gold Pros, told the commissioners that the 30-day holding period “is giving an additional incentive for burglaries … at the (secondhand dealers’) stores.” Businesses will have to carry more insurance, Turffs said, and install better safety measures. The need for such measures was complicated by the Jan. 1 effective date of the ordinance, he said.
Applebee told the County Commission staff had no objection to delaying the effective date.
In response to a suggestion from Turffs that the materials could be stored in a separate, secure location, Thorpe said, “Transferring these materials back and forth creates a huge hazard.”
Raymond Miller, of North Port Coins, objected to the provision restricting a dealer from paying more than $100 in cash to a single seller. Given the requirements for obtaining ID information from each seller and taking a photo of every person, he said, the provision was unnecessary.
Sean Gignac told the commissioners he objected to the necessity of holding metals for 30 days, given swings in market value. After a sale, he said, the market value of an item could drop, and the dealer could lose all his profit.
Pawnshop dealers buy metals at 20% of the market value, Gignac said. “Nobody I know goes to a pawnshop for a fair price.”
Gignac also objected to the ID requirements, pointing out that many of his customers are elderly people, and they would be offended if asked to provide a fingerprint. “They will go outside of Sarasota County,” Gignac added.
Steve Kagy, of Kagy’s Jewelry, said he and his family “are emphatically against this ordinance.” He agreed with Gignac in opposing the 30-day holding period.
“As a small business,” he said, “we are terrified of waiting an extra 15 days.”
“We understood that (extra holding time) would be a contentious issue, obviously, because of the market,” Thorpe told the commissioners. However, he emphasized the timeframe’s value to solving burglary cases and the fact that it matched the requirement for pawnshops.
Kagy also objected to a provision of the ordinance requiring the photos of sellers be kept for five years, calling it “pretty cost-prohibitive.”
Valentino told the board businesses would be welcome to submit photos on CDs to the Sheriff’s Office on a weekly basis, so they did not have to store them long-term.
Applebee told the commissioners he understood business owners’ concerns. However, he said, the Sheriff’s Office planned an intensive education program to help them understand the new regulations. Although business owners also objected to new county pain management clinic regulations, Applebee said, after several months of training, all those businesses were 100% in compliance.
Just before the board voted, Commissioner Jon Thaxton said, “It’s not a perfect ordinance; we’re not living in a perfect world … I think we have clear and compelling evidence from the Sheriff’s Office (that the current regulations) are not working now.”