So, when you work in the pawn industry, one of the things that you hear all of the time is how pawn shops do nothing but buy stolen goods from people. Well, that’s not true.
Most of the articles I write for PawnNerd are based on the idea of trying to help people understand the pawn industry and get the most amount of money possible for their items. After all, pawn shops aren’t rocket science. It’s a business and once you understand how that business works, you will be able to make the best use of it possible.
But this article, talking about if pawn shops can or do buy stolen good from people will be slightly more impassioned if you will and there’s a few reasons for that.
First of all, I’ve been in this industry long enough to see the ups and the downs that our customers go through.
The people that walk into our doors looking for a loan or to sell something are good people, hard working people, people that may just be a little down on their luck or in a tough spot with an unexpected expense.
It bothers me to see these people unfairly labeled as being something less than that, or be looked at as if to say “I wonder what they stole” just because they walked into a pawn shop.
But let’s get down to this, can pawn shops buy stolen goods or not?
The Truth About Pawn Shops Buying Stolen Goods
The fact of the matter is that no pawn shop that I know of will want to go out there and buy stolen goods if they can avoid it.
Pawnbrokers are very aware of the reputation that their business has in the larger sense and doesn’t want to do anything to further the line of through that pawn shops are where the bad guys go to sell their stolen goods.
Pawn shops aren’t fences that criminals can use to profit from their illegal activities and off their ill-gotten goods. In fact, pawn shops are the last places that most criminals want to go to do something like that to begin with because the bad guys know that times have changed!
The Evolution Of Pawn Shops And Criminals
You see, in the 60s and 70s it may have been easy for a bad guy to go into a pawn shop and sell just about anything stolen that he or she wanted to. But starting in the 80s, things began to change.
Police departments began using computers for record keeping early on, and then that transitioned into small business, like pawn shops for instance.
Once all of the transactions a pawn shop was doing become electronically recorded, it became easier for the pawn shop to go back in their database and see who pawned or sold something, search for serial numbers, so on and so forth.
Then in the 90s, this took another step forward when police departments and pawn shops began communicating with each other and sharing their electronic records.
While it is typically state law to report all of their daily buys and pawns to the police departments in their area, police departments have also begun to send pawn shops records and reports of recently stolen goods so that they can keep an eye open for them and identify anyone that comes in with those items.
Currently, a police department can often use something like leads online to quickly track down items in pawn shops in most cases, but even in the worse cases, they are often emailed complete reports that are just a few keystrokes away from finding potential wrong-doers and locking them up if they sell something stolen to a pawn shop.
As you might imagine, the bad guys know this and often times don’t want anything to do with taking their stolen property to pawn shops. Pawn shops will link them directly to those items as they scan copies of their drivers licenses, and in some cases, take fingerprints digitally, which the police department will also often have immediate access to.
That’s part of where my passion not he issue comes from. The bad guys know that pawn shops aren’t a great place to off stolen items, but the general public seems to be stuck with a point of view that’s outdated by 30+ years.
While yes, occasionally something stolen will end up in a pawn shop, it’s fair from common. It’s actually far less than 1% of all transactions that a pawn shop does actually.
Sadly though, even some police departments still think that pawn shops are where bad guys go – but when you ask those officers how often they actually find something in a pawn shop, you will learn that it’s extremely rare.
However, because police departments almost never find any stolen merchandise what so ever, if and when they do find something in a pawn shop, the fact that they found anything at all stands out so greatly that it gets burned into their mindset that oh – pawn shops buy stolen stuff!
The fact of the matter is that the pawn shop is actually providing a service by recovering the item and taking the exact identity of the seller down to the “T” including their ID and sometimes, fingerprints.
Of course, now we will find something truly humorous to me in all of this…
Sometimes Police Departments Ask Pawn Shops To Buy Stolen Items
Go on, I’ll wait a minute while you reread that…
Yes, sometimes police departments will ask pawn shops to buy items that they think or know are stolen, or specifically to buy things from people that they suspect are actively stealing things from people’s homes and cars.
In other words, if you find something in a pawn shop that was stolen because you were contacted by a police department regarding it, don’t be surprised if the only reason that the pawnbroker took it in is because he was asked to – not because he or she was out there trying to help the bad guys get money for ripping you off.
This is one of those things that most people don’t realize but the fact is that pawn shops are in the position of buying property off the public. As previously discussed, most bad guys know not to take stolen items into pawn shops to begin with, but if they are stupid enough to, then the pawnbroker can do some good, help the police and get that same bad guy off the streets!
Are You Getting The Point? Pawn Shops Aren’t The Bad Guys
Really, I suppose that we can wrap this up by just covering that pawn shops want nothing to do with stolen merchandise. Nothing at all.
That having been said, sometimes someone will bring something in that’s stolen. The pawn shop may not know it and may buy it. That happens – and it’s extremely rare!
In these cases, the bad guys are often quickly caught because of the great and open reporting practices between pawn shops and their local law enforcement agencies.
Additionally, the pawn shop may buy those stolen items because the police departments in their area asked them to!
So, if you find yourself driving past a pawn shop and wondering how much stolen stuff they have inside, the answer is typically going to be very little. Pawn shops want nothing to do with it, and bad guys normally want nothing to do with pawn shops. It’s just too easy for them to get caught anymore.
So What Do You Do If You’re Looking For Something Stolen
Well, if you are looking for something stolen, the first step is to always make a police report. Get it on paper, make it official. List the serial numbers, model numbers, any identifying marks and of course any suspects that you may have in mind.
A public copy of that police report should be available in 3-7 days. You’ll want to pick up a copy and make a few photocopies. Take them to the pawn shops in your area and drop them off, just to put a face to the name and get these items on the radar of the pawn shop in the event that the police department in your area doesn’t or hasn’t yet.
After that, then you’ve really done all of you can with the pawn shops in your area. Now it’s time to move your focus to sites like craigslist, offerup and eBay. These sites offer a degree of anonymity to bad guys who are trying to sell the stuff they sold and you might be surprised how much stolen property ends up being listed for sale here.
Other than that, there’s no much you can do but hope that either you or the police department comes across it, but at least being on the lookout gives you a better chance at finding it and may make you feel better just because you are proactive in the recovery of what some thief took from you.