Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/30/2002 01:40 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
              HB 472-PAWNBROKERS/SECONDHAND DEALERS                                                                         
                                                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN STEVENS announced HB 472 to be up for consideration.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. LAURA  ACHEE, staff for  Representative Joe Green,  sponsor of                                                              
HB 472, said that he has prepared  a committee substitute that she                                                              
would explain.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
She explained  that  there is a  statute right  now that  requires                                                              
anyone who buys a secondhand article  with the intent of reselling                                                              
it or  takes a  secondhand article  as collateral  on a  loan, not                                                              
including banks,  to keep  a record of  every single  article they                                                              
take in including  the name of  the person that they  purchased it                                                              
from.  The bill  lists  what the  articles  would  be rather  than                                                              
saying any article  - like articles with a serial  number, article                                                              
with a  resale value greater  than $75  or article presented  in a                                                              
lot of 10 or more, which would cover CDs and DVDs.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
The biggest change in the bill is  that in addition to keeping the                                                              
records  now the secondhand  dealers and  contractors who  conduct                                                              
these transactions  would have to provide weekly  reports to their                                                              
local police agency  or to the state troopers if  they are outside                                                              
of a municipality.  The version that  passed out of the  House has                                                              
every  two   weeks  for   reporting.  After   speaking  with   law                                                              
enforcement personnel,  Representative Green  felt that  every two                                                              
weeks was not frequent enough to track stolen articles.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Representative  Green wants  to make  it clear that  the                                                                   
     intent of this bill is not as  some people have supposed                                                                   
     -  that  we  found  that  there's  a  big  problem  with                                                                   
     dishonest  shopkeepers out  there. In  fact, that's  not                                                                   
     the problem.  We've found every shopkeeper  we've spoken                                                                   
     to has been very honest and  upfront about the fact that                                                                   
     they check  I.D. s and  they don't want stolen  property                                                                   
     in their stores.  There are plenty of theft  laws on the                                                                   
     books that will help law enforcement  shut down any shop                                                                   
     keepers that  were known to  be taking in hot  items and                                                                   
     fencing them. What we're trying  to do is make it easier                                                                   
     for police to get the items  that are stolen back to the                                                                   
     people to whom they belong and  to also have a record of                                                                   
     folks who  are repeatedly stealing and selling  items to                                                                   
     be used during prosecution.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
She said the next  change from the version that passed  out of the                                                              
House  is in  Section  6,  the property-holding  requirement.  The                                                              
House version  says that pawn brokers  have to hold items  for two                                                              
weeks before they could sell them  allowing them time to correlate                                                              
the reports  of items taken in  with the reports of  stolen items.                                                              
The CS  backs the  holding period  down a little  bit to  72 hours                                                              
from the time that  the report is submitted so they  would have to                                                              
hold  from the  time they  take it  in  until 72  hours after  the                                                              
report is submitted. They have included  secondhand dealers in the                                                              
holding provisions.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
The next  change is in  part (b) of  this section where  it's made                                                              
really clear  that in the  case of a  pawned item, the  person who                                                              
pawned it may redeem  that item within the hold period  and not be                                                              
held to the hold period. AS 08.76.760  has an exemption. In Alaska                                                              
especially  a  lot of  people  own shops  that  cover  a range  of                                                              
services  like secondhand  dealers, pawn  brokers, thrift  stores,                                                              
etc. and they want to make it clear  that if a dealer purchases an                                                              
item from another dealer, purchases  it at auction or purchases it                                                              
wholesale,  are not subject  to the  reporting laws, because  they                                                              
are  not items  that  are  likely  to be  stolen  or if  they  are                                                              
secondhand goods  that come from another dealer,  they're presumed                                                              
to have been reported in the original transaction.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Another  change in  the CS  is in  section 1,  the House  version,                                                              
which  said that  they would  record  'items' that  fall in  these                                                              
categories. The  CS makes  it clear that  it refers to  secondhand                                                              
items.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR AUSTERMAN  asked if  they know  what percentage  of pawned                                                              
secondhand items are hot.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. ACHEE replied that she didn't know that.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR AUSTERMAN moved  to adopt the CS to HB  472 for discussion                                                              
purposes. There were no objections and it was so adopted.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR AUSTERMAN  said he  assumed there was  a big  problem with                                                              
secondhand stores that requires these reporting restrictions.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. ACHEE  explained that  this bill came  from the fact  that the                                                              
Municipality of Anchorage has a law  that requires pawn brokers to                                                              
make weekly  reports and  it has been  helpful in tracking  stolen                                                              
items. They  have a constituent who  had a number of  items stolen                                                              
and the Anchorage  Police Department checked the  local stores and                                                              
couldn't find  them. They then thought  the items had gone  out of                                                              
Anchorage to the  Valley and sent an officer out  once or twice to                                                              
check the  records and  all of the  stores. Ultimately,  the items                                                              
were never  recovered even though they  had an idea of  where they                                                              
went. This constituent thought a  statewide reporting system would                                                              
improve  the process.  In Anchorage,  alone, there  is one  police                                                              
officer whose  entire job  is checking  pawn shops and  secondhand                                                              
stores looking for stolen items.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TORGERSON said  the only part of the bill  he doesn't like                                                              
is the  reporting every  week to the  Police Department.  He asked                                                              
why they can't just go in and inspect  the records, which existing                                                              
statute allows them to do.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. ACHEE  replied that he was  correct about the  records already                                                              
being open  to law enforcement agencies,  but there is  a manpower                                                              
issue and they don't have the time.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TORGERSON  asked  how  many  pawnbrokers  and  secondhand                                                              
stores  are  in  Alaska  that  are  required  to  report.  Another                                                              
question  he has  was what  happens  when you  have the  municipal                                                              
police and  the borough state troopers  who both need it  then. It                                                              
sounds to him like it's a never-ending  thing where everyone needs                                                              
to report.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. ACHEE  replied that with regard  to reporting, it would  be to                                                              
the presiding  jurisdiction.  And if  an item  has to be  recorded                                                              
when  it's  taken  in and  that's  the  only  time  it has  to  be                                                              
recorded. The  volume of information  going to police  departments                                                              
isn't  going  to  change  if you're  reporting  it  weekly  versus                                                              
reporting it every two weeks.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     It's going to  be the same number of  transactions being                                                                   
     recorded. It's just how frequently  the reports come in.                                                                   
     In a situation,  especially with hold  requirements that                                                                   
     in  the  version  that  came   out  of  the  House  were                                                                   
     identical  to  the reporting  times,  it gives  the  law                                                                   
     enforcement  no  time  to correlate  their  reports  for                                                                   
     stolen property  with these  reports of items  that have                                                                   
     been pawned or  sold to see if any matches  occur unless                                                                   
     the frequency is greater.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TORGERSON  said  he understands  the  situation,  but  he                                                              
thought it was  an over-burdened position to put  pawn brokers and                                                              
secondhand  dealers  in when  their  books  are already  open  for                                                              
inspection.  "Also, this  information  is going  to pile  up in  a                                                              
corner somewhere. I can't think they're  going to have a dedicated                                                              
person look through this stuff to  see if somebody's serial number                                                              
or item shows up on a list. Maybe they will."                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NORM  BLAKELY,   Alaska  Trading  and  Loans   on  the  Kenai                                                              
Peninsula,  said  he  had  some  questions  about  this  bill.  He                                                              
voluntarily  does this  in his  shop  on the  Peninsula for  about                                                              
three or  four months  and finally  their officer  told them  that                                                              
they just  didn't have the  manpower to  take care of  the reports                                                              
and go through  them. So they no  longer needed to do  it. He said                                                              
that his was the only shop that volunteered  to do the reports and                                                              
that there were  others that didn't. He didn't see  how this would                                                              
work.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. BLAKELY also said that most of  the time what happens in these                                                              
cases that he can see are family  disputes. He thought they should                                                              
think this  bill through and make  it a little more  equitable for                                                              
everyone.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TORGERSON  asked  if  he  gave  his  information  to  the                                                              
troopers as well as the City of Soldotna.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. BLAKELY replied  that Chief Gifford was in the  loop they were                                                              
working with  and the troopers were  supposed to come by  and pick                                                              
them up, but  they didn't have the  time to do it. Nobody  came by                                                              
to pick the reports up and it was time consuming to do.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT  JULIE GRIMES,  Department of  Public Safety,  said she                                                              
thought the bill was "a step in the right direction."                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     People who are  victims of theft would benefit  from the                                                                   
     way  this  bill  is written  and  law  enforcement  will                                                                   
     definitely  have  an  easier  time in  doing  their  job                                                                   
     identifying  stolen property  that has  been pawned  and                                                                   
     then trying  to get it back  to the rightful  owner, but                                                                   
     more  importantly  actually   identifying  who  has  the                                                                   
     professional  stolen items  and trying  to make  arrests                                                                   
     and do a good case investigation.  We do believe it is a                                                                   
     step in the right direction.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TORGERSON  asked  if  his concern  about  the  volume  of                                                              
information that might be coming was a concern of hers.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT GRIMES replied:                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I'm  not  going  to  represent that  we  have  scads  of                                                                   
     resources that  could be dedicated to it  right now, but                                                                   
     at the same  time, it is not something that  will sit in                                                                   
     the corner. I understand your  concern. The information,                                                                   
     for  instance, I  think there's  four or  five shops  in                                                                   
     Mat-Su Valley,  the information that they  would provide                                                                   
     would come  in electronically or  by hard copy  paper to                                                                   
     the  trooper office and  it would  be -  it's not a  big                                                                   
     chore  to categorize and  file it  - and those  troopers                                                                   
     working burglaries would certainly  have access to that.                                                                   
     We'd be going  through it. When you've got  a case going                                                                   
     and you're trying to determine  where the property might                                                                   
     be,  that's just  part  of your  investigation  - is  to                                                                   
     check  that stuff. So,  it's certainly  not going  to go                                                                   
     away. That information is real  valuable and it would be                                                                   
     attended  to by the  troopers or  other law  enforcement                                                                   
     departments that have active…                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TORERGSON  said that  it is a  class A misdemeanor  if the                                                              
guy knowingly violates  that section. "I just have  a problem with                                                              
that."                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN STEVENS  said the bill says  a lot of the  recording will                                                              
now be done by data based management  and asked if that would help                                                              
them access the  information with less manpower.  "Do you envision                                                              
developing some sort of data based management for that?"                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT GRIMES  replied that right  now the Department  doesn't                                                              
have the  resources to  actually create  a state wide  information                                                              
management system, but it is something  they could work towards in                                                              
the future. "For  now we would probably use just  a hard copy file                                                              
and  a trooper  actually  reviewing those  files  looking for  his                                                              
evidence."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  AUSTERMAN  asked  how  she  anticipated  the  interaction                                                              
between  the Anchorage  Police  Department  and  the Alaska  State                                                              
Troopers.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT GRIMES  replied that she  didn't think  the interaction                                                              
between  the law enforcement  agencies was  a problem.  Currently,                                                              
property  crimes investigators  all  over the  state network  with                                                              
each  other, because  they realize  how quickly  stolen items  can                                                              
leave their city and be pawned in another city.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR AUSTERMAN  asked if she knew  the percentage of  hot items                                                              
that is involved.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
LIEUTENANT GRIMES  replied that she couldn't give  him an accurate                                                              
answer.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LEMAN said  it would be to everyone's advantage  to have a                                                              
web page with the standardized format  so people could submit this                                                              
information electronically.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I  can't imagine  getting  all  this hard  copy…I  think                                                                   
     you'd  be better off  to pay  the secondhand dealers  in                                                                   
     the   pawn   shops   $1  if   they   submit   a   report                                                                   
     electronically according to  the right format to provide                                                                   
     an incentive to them and be money ahead.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
He said he knows they mean well.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN STEVENS said he thought that was a valid point.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ACHEE  said  she thought  Representative  Green  would  whole                                                              
heartedly support  a data  based system, but  this just  isn't the                                                              
right fiscal year to be asking for more money.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR AUSTERMAN  said he didn't see  where it says they  need to                                                              
maintain the records  for one year and it talks  about a seven-day                                                              
period. He asked if that was for the new items.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. ACHEE  replied that new items  are not explicitly  stated, but                                                              
that's not  the intent, which is  that only the new  records since                                                              
the  last report  need  to be  recorded. She  said  that could  be                                                              
clarified.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BLAKELY commented  that he had no problem  with Representative                                                              
Green's  concern  that families  get  their property  returned  to                                                              
them, but  if then they  need to think  about restitution  for the                                                              
people  who have  purchased the  property.  This has  been a  real                                                              
problem that should be addressed.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ACHEE responded  that  without this  bill,  if an  individual                                                              
finds an item in a store that they  can legitimately claim belongs                                                              
to them  and the police  recover it, they'll  get it back  and the                                                              
shop keeper will  unfortunately be out the money.  Under this bill                                                              
the shop owner  could bring a civil action against  the person who                                                              
took it and gave him their name and age.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR AUSTERMAN  said he was having  a hard time with  this bill                                                              
especially if it stays in the same form it's in now.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     I think  it steps too  far out on  the limb of  creating                                                                   
     new  laws that  create new  work  that are  a burden  on                                                                   
     everybody. Unless  they can show me that  this is really                                                                   
     a big problem  that we need to address  through creating                                                                   
     new laws, I'm going to have  a hard time moving this out                                                                   
     of committee.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN STEVENS said they would hold the bill.                                                                                 

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