FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Pawn shops could be asked to take a picture and fingerprints of those selling or pawning items and keep their video surveillance longer, if Forsyth County Commissioners approve changes to their law.
At their regular meeting Feb. 7, commissioners held the first of two hearings on some of the significant new changes that also include denial of license if a pawn shop broker or associates such as partner, majority stockholder, or other principal of the applicant has had a pawn shop license revoked or suspended by any county or other government.
“That is a significant broadening,” said Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
The proposed changes would also make it a violation to modify or falsify books.
Another change would require the pawn broker who uses security cameras to store the surveillance tape for at least 30 days and they would have to take a digital image and fingerprints of people who are “pledging, trading, pawning, exchanging or selling” an item.
The changes were requested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
“The sheriff’s office is looking to have more tools in solving crimes,” said Commissioner Todd Levent.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Rick Doyle, director of operations, said the amendment was prompted as a means to increase efficiency and reduce labor costs.
“The change in process would eliminate the need for our investigators to manually enter pawn tickets into the state computer,” Doyle said.
The pawn shops already enter the information into their system and then send it to the sheriff’s office to be entered in the state system.
“The new process will ensure accuracy,” Doyle said.
Neighboring counties like Cherokee, Gwinnett and Cobb already follow this process.
“Photos will help us better identify items,” Doyle said. “Especially if we are searching for an item that had been stolen and sold to a pawn shop.”
Some who spoke in opposition to the changes, said keeping surveillance video for 30 days would require an investment in new technology and would be expensive. In addition, the amount of items that end up being stolen is very minimal, pawn shop owners said.
Aron Hendrix, owner Lake Lanier Pawn Shop, said the changes need to be reevaluated along with the new sheriff, Duane Piper.
“We are already doing the computer and the fingerprints and have spent a lot of money on our surveillance cameras,” Hendrix said. “But there are several other things we need to look at [before approving this].”
Others said the changes will be a burden on their time and may drive away legitimate business transactions.
Gary MaGee, of Mountain View Pawn, said pawn shops are already heavily regulated, while jewelry stores or consignment stores are not scrutinized. He said since he set up shop three years ago, law enforcement has come in three times to get back items that had been stolen.
“A thief would be crazy to bring something to a pawn shop, because there are so many other places to take stuff to now,” MaGee said. “We always work with the sheriff’s office.”
Commissioners want the sheriff’s office to meet with the pawn shop owners and address their concerns prior to the next public hearing.
The second public hearing is scheduled for March 7.
ALSO AT THE MEETING
A public hearing on precious metals and gems was tabled, which means removed from the agenda. For the item to come back, a notice will have to be made at a meeting. The sheriff’s office requested more time to evaluate the proposed changes. The proposed change in the law would require anyone wanting to start operating a place of business that sells and buys gold and other precious metals and stones to file an application with the sheriff’s office. Applicants with a criminal background would be refused a business permit.