Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office representatives and county officials met Tuesday to discuss a revised county ordinance that would impose tougher regulations on the sale and purchase of scrap metal.
If all goes as planned this week, Lt. Charlie Thorpe, of the Sheriff’s Office’s Investigations Bureau said, the County Commission will vote on the ordinance Nov. 9.
The proposed ordinance includes stiffer identification verification requirements for sellers of precious metals. Among the measures is that a buyer get an imprint of a seller’s right thumbprint. Thorpe said he hopes the proposed ordinance will be presented to the county commissioners next week.
“We’re involving a lot of people here to try to make something happen,” he said.
That included his plans to drive commissioners this week to various scrap yards in the county, so they could see the types of materials people are bringing in to collect money.
It was a little more than a year ago that the Sheriff’s Office began taking a harder look at the scrap metal business, he said. Statistics examined by Det. Dan Valentino showed an increase in burglaries, in which jewelry, coin collections and pharmaceuticals were stolen. People often have jewelry and rare coins well hidden, but burglars will find those items.
“I’ve seen some houses just obliterated inside,” Thorpe said. “The addiction lifestyle drives this to a very large extent.”
Addicts and people out of work who sell stolen metals actually can earn a steady income.
“Traditionally, a lot of them wind up in jail for this or something else,” he said. “(But) someone else will just take it over.”
In late July, during the Sheriff’s Office’s Operation Meltdown, deputies visited pawn shops, scrap yards, secondhand metal dealers, gold-buying firms and others.
“When you have somebody scrapping very usable ladders, tools, things like that, you have to question them,” he said.
However, it was difficult for deputies to tie such items to those listed on criminal reports — which is precisely why deputies say the county’s ordinance needs revision.
“We realize there’re a lot of great business owners out there willing to work with us as much as they can,” he said.
However, business owners need to realize that many unscrupulous people are operating, too, he said.
The primary opponents of the ordinance changes have been rare coin dealers. The proposed ordinance requires dealers to keep all the coins they purchase for 30 days, in the event the property has been stolen.
Wayne Stollman of Antwerp Diamonds, with a store on Main Street in Sarasota as well as locations in Georgia, said Monday that necessity would mean dealers would see as much as $700,000 tied up per month in inventory.
“You basically just shut down an industry, and it also puts us at an unfair advantage over every other county in Florida,” Stollman said.
Stollman recommended the ordinance require all coin dealers to obtain bonds.
Francine DeFilippo Kent, whose daughter and son-in-law are also rare coin dealers in Sarasota, was among the people who attended a Sept. 26 workshop.
“(County officials and the Sheriff’s Office personnel) took the typical bureaucratic attitude: You’re lucky we even told you about (the ordinance),” she said.
The biggest mistake, she said, was county officials’ lumping pawnbrokers and scrap yards in with the coin dealers.
She agreed with Stollman that stricter local regulations would drive businesses away from Sarasota County.
“This reminds me of Prohibition,” Kent said. “Legal, honest businesses are forced to go someplace else, and that’s not good for any of us.”
Along with the comments accepted at the Sept. 26 meeting, Thorpe said, the county received about 120 comments by email from people who had reviewed the proposed new ordinance on the Web.
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