Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll and antique business owners have come to a compromise on how the city will enforce state regulations intended to curtail the sale of stolen property.
Word spread quickly in the industry that new enforcement was coming, so a meeting that was scheduled between the chief and just a few businesses owners was ultimately attended by about 20 people, said Monique Holes, owner of Vintage Holes in Roseburg Square. She was the first antique store owner told she must get a secondhand dealer license, fingerprint vendors and consignors, input her merchandise into a statewide Department of Justice database intended to identify stolen property, and hold those items for 30 days before they could be sold.
The business owners, most of whom rent space to multiple vendors, said they didn’t have the room to hold the merchandise and that the rules would slow business. Also, getting the secondhand dealer license, fingerprint pad and software necessary to comply with this state law would cost them hundreds, they said.
Carroll was sympathetic to their concerns and came up with an agreement that will leave nearly all of the antique businesses unaffected. Only stores that sell jewelry valued at more than $950 must comply with the law.
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“Technically the law covers everything in their stores, but there is spirit of the law versus letter of the law,” Carroll said. “The ultimate goal is to prevent thievery, not to shut down businesses.”
Holes said she and the other business owners were happy with the outcome. Most sell handmade or costume jewelry nowhere near $950.
“I understand that they are looking for stolen property, and I am appreciative to the police department for working with us,” she said. “Ninety-five percent of the antique stores that were at the meeting will not have to get the (secondhand dealers license).”
State law for years has required pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers to document and temporarily hold the property they buy and sell. In Modesto, these businesses, not just pawn shops but places like Play It Again Sports and Guitar Center, filled out pawn slips that routinely would be checked by a community service officer with the pawn detail unit in search of stolen property.
The full implementation of a statewide database last year did away with the old hand-written method, and a new community service officer in the unit wanted to make sure everyone was on board. She visited the 38 businesses that had their secondhand dealer/pawnbroker license, then started on the approximately 20 businesses that she said should have the license but didn’t.
Reader reaction to the story that ran in The Bee last week came mostly on the side of the businesses, with one man calling the enforcement “mindless bureaucracy.”
Others chalked it up to the cost of doing business and said the owners should have done their research. Some pointed out the city’s business license application states the applicants must contact the Modesto Police Department if they plan to sell secondhand merchandise.
The best insight, however, came from a business owner in Newman who sells vintage and antique items on consignment as well original works of art.
Kari Thompson opened Kari’s Treasure Trove Artisan Gallery and Consignment six months ago and has experience with the law and the requirements.
“As a business owner I want to protect my customers, myself and my artists as much as possible,” she said.
She did her research and contacted the Department of Justice. She bought the digital fingerprint and signature pad and software required for the California Pawn and Secondhand dealers System (CAPSS) and paid for the license, which funds the system. All of it cost about $1,000, which she said was a lot for a start-up business, but said she now rests easy knowing she is in full compliance with the law.
“None of my consignors have an issue with it, and some are happy with that confidence that things are being done in the most professional of manners,” Thompson said. “They are leaving things that are worth potentially thousands of dollars in my care; I’d like to think of (the system) more as a positive, rather than to see as a detriment to business.”
She said no one from the city of Newman has checked to see if she is in compliance but she is ready if they do or if she is ever audited.
While Carroll told the Modesto business owners he would honor their agreement, he said things could always change someday when a new chief takes over.