Pawn shop laws
Bill needed to help victims
Published: Monday, May 16, 2005
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
For the victims of 1,389 cases of robbery, burglary and motor vehicle theft reported to the Ohio State University police in 2003, theft is a legitimate concern.
Living on an urban campus leaves students more susceptible to crime in general, particularly theft. The experience of being a victim of theft is cumbersome. From reporting the crime to replacing the items taken, it is a lengthy process. As demonstrated in a Columbus Dispatch article Sunday, sometimes these stolen articles show up at pawn shops. Although this might seem like a lucky break, it can come with a cost.
According to current state law, pawn shops can charge victims of crime to retrieve their stolen items from the shop. While this might appear to be a loophole, this neglect is intentional. In February 2002, House Bill 444 was introduced into the Ohio House of Representatives, which would have required pawn shops to return stolen property to its rightful owner, without charge unless a lawsuit by the pawnbroker was successful. However, this legislation was opposed by the pawn shop industry, did not make it past the Commerce and Labor Committee, and has yet to be reintroduced, although Republican Sen. Timothy J. Grendell plans to do so later this month.
Having to pay to retrieve a stolen good because of state law disrespects the property rights of individuals. Theft violates one's property and individual safety. Being a victim of burglary or robbery is difficult, especially when coupled with the stress of school and other commitments. Allowing pawn shops to charge victims for their own property only adds to the anxiety of the situation.
Allowing individuals to claim stolen property free does put the pawnbrokers at a disadvantage but this is a minimal inconvenience compared with what victims go through.
At the time of the previous legislation's introduction, pawnbrokers argued only 1 percent of their merchandise was stolen property. Therefore, legislation was not needed. If this statistic is accurate, however, then pawnbrokers should be willing to return items for free since they would not lose much business by not selling those items.
Although legislation is a step in the right direction, responsibility ultimately rests on the pawnbrokers themselves. Running a business that relies heavily on the honesty of people bringing in items requires additional responsibilities from the business owners. Pawnbrokers need to be more aware of the items being brought into their stores and use greater scrutiny in selecting which items to take.
Asking victims of theft to pay for their own property is not fair and legislation should be enacted to protect individuals' possessions and rights.