Pawn Shops in Massachusetts, and elsewhere, are regulated by local, state and federal laws pertaining to loans, purchases and privacy issues. Victims of theft often go to a pawn shop and see if their merchandise is on display there, but it’s really not that simple. Here’s a description of the pawning process and what you should do if your merchandise is stolen.
First, understand that Pawnbrokers and other second hand dealers are generally required to report all transactions they make to local police or authorities. In addition to pawn shops, jewelers and consignment shops that buy gold and silver jewelry and other items are all required to maintain records of transactions and report them to local authorities on a regular basis. This often includes providing pictures and descriptions of all the items they take in, along with a copy of the ID and photos of the person who brought the item in. The pawn shop must then hold the item for a specific period of time, usually a minimum of 30 days, to allow the police time to investigate if the merchandise was part of a crime.
Recently, New England law enforcement agencies have centralized this information through NESPIN, New England State Police Information Network, where all six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) share the information of what has been brought into pawn shops and second hand dealers across the region. This allows local law enforcement the opportunity to search the database to determine if items brought in were the result of a crime. This database is not available to the public, but is accessible to local law enforcement.
If you are a victim of theft, here’s what you should do
- Call the police. The first step after you discover a theft is to contact the local police where the crime was committed. Police will be able to take the information and conduct an investigation to try and locate your items. They may have knowledge of other crimes in the area and will also be able to review the records kept by other local police departments in surrounding communities. As mentioned earlier, law enforcement can now also review the NESPIN records for all of New England to try and track your merchandise. If they are able to identify any possible items, they will then contact the pawn shop or second hand dealer themselves to verify if they are yours.
- If you are the one to locate the item, either in police records or on display in a pawn shop or jewelry store, contact the police department where you filed your original report. Only they can request the records of the pawn shop’s transactions. Because of privacy laws, pawn shops are not allowed to give out any information on any customers they have done business with. At Empire Loan, however, we will provide that information to the police or local state authorities. Since 1985, Empire Loan has worked effectively with local law enforcement to help people recover their stolen merchandise and we pride ourselves on being cooperative with the authorities.
- Contact local pawn shops directly: Pawn shops do not want to buy or lend money on stolen merchandise. In the end, pawn shops can be the only ones who lose if it turns out they have taken in stolen merchandise. If the merchandise you lost was unique, if you have pictures of it or serial numbers, in the case of electronics, that can help the pawn shop identify the item. Unfortunately it’s not always possible for pawn shops to track details about every item that comes in the door. Empire Loan has 8 stores and does hundreds of transactions in a typical day. This means if you lost a gold wedding band, it would be virtually impossible for us to tell you if somebody came in with one because of the volume we see.
- Checking in a pawn shops display cases won’t always be very effective. First, as indicated earlier, pawn shops like Empire Loan hold onto merchandise for a minimum of 30 days before doing anything with it. If the item was stolen last week, it would be another 3 weeks before we’d be allowed to sell it. After the 30 days we may melt the item down if it’s gold or silver or sell it online or to a wholesaler if its electronics or a musical instrument. That’s why it’s important to work with the police in trying to locate your items in a timely fashion.
- Contact your insurance company. If you have a homeowners policy or renters insurance you may be able to file a claim. While this won’t result in getting your original merchandise back, you may be able to recoup some money to help try and replace the items.
Empire Loan wants to help you recover your merchandise. Hopefully the above information will help you figure out how to do just that. If you have any questions or need any further information, feel free to contact any of Empire Loan’s 8 locations, check our website (www.EmpireLoan.com) or call us at 800-375-PAWN