At it stands, the police proposal to strictly regulate Roseburg secondhand stores should be discarded, though the effort could be salvaged with a more collaborative approach.
Roseburg police Lt. Pat Moore has been working for two years on an ordinance that would require thrift shops to record their transactions for police inspection.
Police say such a law would prevent secondhand stores from being convenient outlets for thieves to sell stolen goods.
The drawback is that the law would burden small businesses and interfere with their customer relations.
The City Council heard from unhappy store owners Monday and then told Moore to try again.
Moore, understandably, said he was disappointed. There was some criticism that Moore didn’t do more consultation with thrift shop owners, but that doesn’t ring true. Moore worked with merchants and revised the proposal to make it less onerous.
The original proposal placed too many demands on merchants to collect personal information, including birth dates, from people who sell them property and even in some cases buy goods. Businesses would have been harmed by having to segregate property and waiting to resell it.
The draft ordinance that Moore took to the council last week was less restrictive. But it still had essentially the same character.
A policy requiring people who do business with secondhand stores to surrender personal information may just not be acceptable to merchants or Roseburg residents.
Making rules for secondhand stores is no small matter. They are popular in Roseburg, and the city assumes more will open. That’s one rationale for an ordinance. The city acknowledges secondhand dealers provide a valuable service, but also potentially serve criminals.
The comparison is not perfect, but wine tasting rooms, brew pubs and any other place that serves alcohol potentially fosters criminal behavior — drunken driving. The law requires places with liquor licenses to not over serve, but they aren’t required to write down an individual’s alcohol consumption.
In a similar way, secondhand stores can deter thieves. Such practices were included in the latest police proposal.
Moore proposed that thrift shops not purchase property under three circumstances: when the seller is drunk or on drugs, when serial numbers or owner-applied identifiers have been altered or obliterated, or when the merchant has reason to suspect the seller doesn’t own the property.
He also proposed requiring secondhand stores to refrain from selling property for 30 days if police have reasonable suspicion it was stolen.
An ordinance that calls for responsible business practices, and throws out intrusive data collection, may work.