Stephon Johnson | 11/28/2013, 6 a.m.
Monday’s City Council hearing at 250 Broadway wasn’t well attended, but the reason for the hearing might raise some eyebrows, particularly if you run one of the many pawnshops and scrap metal businesses in the five boroughs.
The council hearing centered on Int. No. 1177, an amendment to the administrative code of the city of New York in relation to the record-keeping requirements for second-hand dealers, scrap processors and pawn brokers. Sponsored by New York City Council Members Daniel Garodnick, Margaret Chin, Peter Koo, G. Oliver Koppell and Dan Halloran (by request of Mayor Michael Bloomberg), the bill would require the aforementioned businesses to keep electronic records of the names, addresses and items of sale or purchases on a website that will be designed by the police commissioner.
The bill would also expand record keeping requirements for used car dealers, but those records won’t be electronic. Second-hand dealers, pawn shops and scrap processors already keep physical records that can be accessed by the New York Police Department at their request.
Deputy Commissioner John Bilich provided testimony on the NYPD’s behalf. Bilich talked about the alleged difficulty cops have with curbing property theft of electronic devices. According to Bilich, theft of electronic products accounted for over 40 percent of robberies, burglaries and grand larcenies in the city.
“In 2012, there were approximately 16,000 thefts of Apple devices alone, which exceeded the increase for overall crime in New York City,” said Bilich. “In the absence of the increase in Apple thefts, the city would have experienced a decline in 2012. In 2013, as of Nov. 10, cellphones were involved in nearly 45 percent of robberies, and over half of the devices stolen were iPhones.”
During his testimony, Bilich (and other NYPD officials) constantly referenced the website Leads Online, a web-based electronic data transfer service that serves as a repository for the transaction records of pawnbrokers and second-hand dealers. Businesses, which register voluntarily with the network, upload the same information they usually maintain hard copies of.
But in a retort, Jordan Tabach-Bank, a pawnbroker and director of the National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA), provided testimony against Int. No. 1177, stating that the amended law is out of proportion to the amount of times the crimes in question occur.
“Pawnshops are highly regarded and therefore a terrible place to attempt to liquidate stolen property,” said Tabach-Bank. “In fact, the incidence of stolen items in pawnshops nationwide is less than one-tenth of 1 percent. This results from the longstanding record keeping requirements imposed by New York and other states with respect to obtaining personal identification from all customers.”
Tabach-Bank said that thieves already know that they’ll be caught if they frequent pawnshops with stolen property, so they sell their good at less regulated places like flea markets and on websites like Craigslist and eBay. The NPA director also said that the Int. No. 1177 would violate consumers’ rights to privacy and due process of law. He also stated that most pawn clientele are respectable customers who are unable to obtain other means of credit and pawning items for money is no different than withdrawing a cash advance from a credit card.