Police: Most stolen items end up in pawn shops

By Katy Andersen

March 1, 2018

BECKLEY/PRINCETON, W. Va. (WVNS) – It’s become far too common, your stolen items ending up in pawn shops.

“We inescapably end up with stolen property from time to time,” said Ron Wood, the owner of Flat Top Arms Incorporated in Beckley.

Wood has been in business for 18 years and says he’s seen an influx in the amount of stolen items coming into his shop. “You don’t want to have items that are stolen. You are going to end up losing money plus your reputation,” Wood said.

Chad Butler, who is a Detective with the Princeton Police Department, said stolen items ending up in pawn shops is a huge problem in Princeton. “Seems like everything that gets stolen ends up in a pawn shop,” Butler said.

Butler said it’s thieves trying to get a quick buck for a quick fix. So every week, he compiles a list of stolen items and then checks the entire store of the 4 pawn shops in the Princeton area. “Tools is the number one- people leave a lot of tools in their vehicle and out buildings,” Butler said.

This is a problem law enforcement in Beckley said they are also battling. “A pretty large majority of stolen items at some point find there way into a pawn shop,” Detective David Allard, with the Beckley Police Department, said.

Allard is also combing through local pawn shops for stolen items, but instead of doing it by hand like Detective Butler, he does it online through a nationally used database called Leads Online.

By law, all pawn shops in Beckley must enter every item they receive into the database. That includes the seller’s information along with the item’s manufacturer, a description and serial number.Then when an item is reported stolen, law enforcement can enter that information and hopefully find it.

“The more information we have when a person reports a crime, the more likely hood we will solve the case,” Allard said.

But not every agency is able to search through Leads Online because of it’s price tag. The program costs each department thousands of dollars.

Whether it’s by hand or online, both Detective Allard and Butler said they’ve recovered thousands of dollars worth of stolen items from area pawn shops.

As for Wood at Flat Top Arms, he said they’re constantly working with police to make sure stolen items don’t end up in his shop- or your home.

“There are a few times that we virtually know,” Wood said. “If you bring me a stolen item and we find out it’s stolen one time, you won’t ever bring me anything else.”

Police said the biggest problem they run into is when people report something stolen but they do not have the item’s serial number, which is crucial when trying to prove the item is yours. They recommend you go around your home and write down the serial number for big ticket items, especially guns and tools.

Also, they said do not wait to file a police report. As soon as you realize something is missing, call your local law enforcement.