Cañon City Police Department wants help from businesses to cut down on thefts

By Carie Canterbury

September 18, 2018

The Cañon City Police Department is working to not only update record keeping systems for pawnbroker-type merchants but also to cut down on local property thefts.

A proposed amended ordinance would affect businesses in Cañon City that function similar to a pawn shop and accept merchandise for purchase from a private seller.

The CCPD will host a problem-solving meeting Thursday with business owners to discuss the proposal.

“We are trying to get our hands around how to more effectively combat the property crimes that are occurring in our city,” Cañon City Police Chief Daric Harvey said. “This is a way to try and be a responsible business owner, and what we are trying to do to be a responsible police agency is to say, ‘This is the problem, community — we need some help with this, how do we fix this.'”

He said an existing ordinance addresses pawnbrokers having to report a private seller who comes to them with merchandise to pawn or sell. The pawnbroker must record the transaction, which they will still do, but it will all be done electronically.

“(The current ordinance) is somewhat antiquated in that it talks about a papered system of recording and keeping a log,” Harvey said. “There are systems out now that are electronic. One piece of this is to automate those logs so it makes it easier, nobody has to physically hand carry or pick up pawn slips or visibly inspect logs.”

The business also will take a photo of the private seller, which should be happening anyway, Harvey said, but some of the pawn shops are not doing that currently because the old system is paper-based.

“Part of the issue that we get when we go to prosecution is how do we know that it is the same person,” he said. “If we have a picture of the person doing the transaction, then for prosecution purposes it’s easier for us to go to the district attorney and say this is the person that presented this for sale.”

He said other businesses also accept property from private individuals, but they currently don’t fall under the same licensure. The revised ordinance would include them.

“Certain pieces like construction equipment or precious metals, or those types of things that are included elsewhere in the state that are reported, they are going to need to be reported here,” Harvey said.

He said clothing and furniture consignment stores and businesses that purchase items from other licensed businesses won’t be required to report the transaction, but secondhand shops, coin shops, antique dealers and junk dealers will be.

“Anybody that accepts items of significant value that is serialized or is trackable, it’s primarily going to be those things that are targeted for burglaries, for criminal trespass in vehicles, that are taken and quickly pawned,” he said. “The rule of thumb will be if you would take it to a pawn dealership and they would accept it, simply because it’s a different business and it’s the same type of a function, then that’s generally what would be required.”

The CCPD is part of the LeadsOnline system, which is an electronic pawn database, that also is used by the majority of the state.

“Shortly after we implemented that, there was a pawn shop burglary on Main Street,” Harvey said. “We were able to recover those guns because of LeadsOnline.”

He said another Main Street business also was burglarized, but because of the electronic system, stolen knives were recovered.

“This really is a mechanism for us to try and close that gap,” he said. “Thursday’s meeting is to say, ‘This is the problem that we’re dealing with, and if you are a business that this would affect, we want to hear from you.'”

LeadsOnline also has a search feature that when property is entered, it searches Amazon, Craig’s List and eBay, where some people may try to sell stolen goods.

The LeadsOnline service costs about $3,000 annually, but the CCPD picks up the tab so that business owners don’t have to bear the cost. Harvey said he will talk to business owners Thursday about any potential impediments to implementing the automated system, such as staffing and computers.

The proposed changes to the ordinance currently are not in effect, and they have not yet been presented to the city council.

“We are trying to hear from businesses about the impact,” he said. “We are trying to be more thoughtful with things that we propose to council to make sure that if there are issues, that we hear from those that the law would affect.”

The meeting will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in council chambers at John D. Havens City Hall, located at 128 Main St. Although everyone is welcome, Harvey wants to hear specifically from businesses that would be directly affected.

Depending on Thursday’s attendance, there may be a follow-up meeting. The next step, Harvey said, would be to share the feedback with his staff and the city administrator to see what revisions would need to occur. He expects to present a draft ordinance to the city council in mid-October. The ordinance would undergo two readings before it is adopted.