Secondhand stores could deter property crimes by recording who they buy goods from and waiting at least seven days before reselling the merchandise, Roseburg police say.
Some thrift store owners say they don’t mind noting who sells them property, but balk at the idea of sitting on items for a week, potentially losing sales.
The Roseburg police and city staff members are working on an ordinance to regulate how secondhand stores acquire and sell goods.
A proposal was originally scheduled to go to the City Council on Monday, but City Manager Lance Colley said staff members want more time to review the proposal. The council could still be presented with a draft of the ordinance by the end of the month.
Roseburg police Lt. Patrick Moore said he began working on an ordinance two years ago when property crimes spiked.
He said he put the ordinance aside last year because the city and thrift stores were already wrangling over whether used goods could be displayed outside.
Moore said one reason for increased property crimes may be a rise in opiate abuse — a spendy habit some addicts pay for by selling ill-gotten goods. Power tools are particularly popular targets for thieves, he said.
“People leave them in their sheds and their garages and their tool boxes in their trucks, and they’re expensive, so people like to buy them secondhand,” Moore said.
Records of transactions in secondhand stores would help police recover property and prove crimes, he said.
“If everyone just checks ID, if everyone just keeps a record of what they buy, it helps reduce the crime rate,” Moore said.
A draft of the ordinance that was to be presented to the council Monday would require secondhand stores to take down the seller’s name, birthdate, address and type of identification, and obtain a signature.
It also would mandate recording the date of purchase and a thorough description of the item, including a serial number. The information would have to be provided to police within 72 hours, whether or not a crime was suspected.
The ordinance also would mandate a seven-day hold on most merchandise, though the most recent version grants an exception if buyers leave their names and other personal information, including birthdate.
Junk Junkies owner Gene Garino said he doesn’t like the proposal. He sells large items such as furniture, bicycles and lawn mowers at his store on Diamond Lake Boulevard. He said he can’t afford to store them for a week.
“It’s like, ‘No! OK?’ I run a secondhand store, and I sell secondhand stuff,” Garino said. “I do not have a place to store stuff. When I buy it, it goes out on my floor the same day, and it sells fast.”
Garino expressed concern that recording buyers’ information might make them question whether the merchandise was stolen. If so, they might back away from the sale, he said.
“Most people that I know wouldn’t particularly like going into a secondhand store to buy a bike, and they have to give all their information,” Garino said.
Joe Coffey, owner of Hillbilly Heaven Resale on Southeast Stephens Street, said he objected to an earlier version of the proposal that would have required thrift stores to store just-purchased property in a separate room during the seven-day waiting period.
“I told (Moore) we didn’t have the room,” he said. “We might bring three couches in one day, but if we have to store them in a separate room that means we have to empty out our storeroom.”
Moore also revised the proposal to exempt music CDs, tapes and albums from the seven-day hold.
Coffey said he appreciated the changes and now thinks the ordinance sounds good.
“So far everything in there, I’m more or less OK with,” Coffey said.
Coffey said he already carefully documents his purchases. He photocopies identification and requires people he buys property from to sign a statement swearing they own what they are selling.
He said sometimes a little common sense can prevent the purchase of stolen goods.
“If someone comes in with a brand new item worth 200 bucks and says, ‘I want 10 dollars for it,’ then you know it’s not theirs,” he said.
The Dusty Hutch, on Southeast Stephens Street, closed for business on Friday. Owner Dawn Hutchison said she needs to attend to family matters and hopes to reopen in about a year.
Hutchison said she always took down seller information for her own protection.
“It’s important because it keeps the secondhand store from being at fault if something was stolen. If you’re buying goods and you don’t have an ID ... it makes you liable,” she said.
As for the seven-day hold, Hutchison said she thinks that is reasonable for relatively small and frequently stolen items like jewelry or electronics. Storing larger items, such as furniture, could be hard, so she recommended allowing property to be displayed with signs indicating they are not yet for sale.
Hutchison said she understands why police want an ordinance.
“This end of town is almost notorious for break-ins,” she said.
Garino questioned whether the ordinance would really reduce property crimes.
“In my opinion, if somebody steals something from the Roseburg area — granted they’re not very bright if they stole the stuff anyways — but if someone steals something in the Roseburg area, they would be smartest to take the stuff out of town to sell,” Garino said.
City Councilor Bob Cotterell, who favors an ordinance, was a Roseburg police officer for 25 years. He recalled that police attempted to get a similar ordinance passed in the 1980s. Their efforts were met with staunch resistance from store owners, and the plan was scrapped.
He said he hopes for a different result this time.
“If we are recording the seller’s identification, we have a better chance of recovering what was stolen. Then we have a happier victim, and we can hold accountable the person who committed the crime,” he said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘I do not have a place to store stuff. When I buy it, it goes out on my floor the same day, and it sells fast.’
owner of Junk Junkies