One of the Questions that I will often get asked by people when it comes to the pawn industry is “How do pawnbrokers verify that the items pawned are not stolen?”
Well, there’s a lot that goes into this to be honest.
Before we even begin to go down this road, let’s talk about stolen items and pawn shops in general, just to get a bigger picture of the topic.
In the 50s, 60s, 70s, and early 80s – pawnbrokers had very few tools at their disposal to help them identify stolen items and verify that the items they did take in weren’t in fact stolen.
Because of that, the pawn industry has a reputation that surrounds it of being the place where bad guys go to sell their ill-gotten goods.
The good news is that pawn shops are really beginning to shake that reputation and for many reasons.
As TV shows like Pawn Stars rose in popularity, American audiences saw that pawn shops weren’t the dimly lit, back alley, or shady business that many people thought they were.
What they saw instead was that pawn shops had well-lit atmospheres with polite and professional employees looking to help when they could, or make the best deal possible for all parties involved.
This was a big change for the mindset of many people who had never considered shopping in a pawn shop before, or taking something to a pawn shop and selling it.
Furthermore, they got to really see how pawnbrokers dealt with stolen merchandise when it was found in their store, and that was truly surprising to many.
Pawnbrokers Don’t Want Your Stolen Goods
What TV audiences witnessed wasn’t pawnbrokers rejoicing when they were able to get a great deal on something just because it was stolen.
Instead, what they were seeing was pawnbrokers getting very upset when someone on their staff bought or loaned on something that was involved in a crime – to the point of reprimanding, and in some cases, firing those employees right in front of the TV cameras.
This certainly gave many people something new to consider when it came to how pawn shops felt about stolen items coming into their stores.
Stolen Goods Became Easier To Identify For Pawn Shops
Now, going back, long before there was ever a TV program about pawn shops on everyone’s to-do list, some things began to change in the pawn industry regarding how stolen items were identified and dealt with.
As previously mentioned, in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and early 80s it would be very difficult for a pawnbroker to determine that one ring was stolen and the other right next to it actually belonged to the person who brought it in.
After all, stolen items don’t have signs on them that read “I don’t belong to this guy.”
All a pawn shop could really rely on was their impression of the customer. A pawnbroker might ask themselves:
- Does he/she look like they should own this?
- Is he/she old enough to be able to afford something like this?
- Does he/she know a lot of information about what this item is and what it does?
- Do he/she have any paperwork for it, or are there missing pieces that might indicate that it was stolen?
If everything seemed like it was okay, there was really nothing else that the pawnbroker could go on to determine if it was stolen.
Then The Computer Revolution Of The 80s Happened
Almost overnight it seemed, police departments were computerizing all of their records and reports.
If someone had their house or car broken into, an officer would take a report and it would get typed into a database.
Suddenly everyone in the department, and eventually neighboring departments, had access to this wealth of information about the crimes going on around them and the suspect or items involved.
In the early 90s, email became popular and wide spread. Eventually everyone had an email address, so shortly there after, websites as well.
But it was email that really made the next big step towards allowing pawn shops to more easily detect potentially stolen items when they were brought in.
The Communication Between Police Departments And Pawn Shops In The Search Of Stolen Items
With email, now everyone could talk to each other and simply reach out to determine if something had come into the pawn shop recently.
Police departments could build lists of things that they were looking for easily and just send the pawn shops in their area an email with the items and potential suspects that they were looking for.
Even more impressive though was that pawn shops were now also computerizing their transactions and building databases.
This allowed them to send the police departments around them lists of items that they had recently taken in on a daily basis so that law enforcement could see if something they were looking for showed up at a nearby pawn shop.
This two-way communication between pawn shops and police departments forever changed how stolen goods were identified when they were brought into pawn shops.
Pawn Shops Know What Stolen Goods They Are Looking For On A Daily Basis
In our recent article How To Report Stolen Items To Pawn Shops, we tell you that one of the first things you need to do is to make a police report.
One of the reasons for this is that the police department can review the lists of recently taken in items from pawn shops to see if something matching the description of a stolen item came in.
Furthermore though, is that police departments can then email the pawn shops around you and let them know what they are looking for.
That way, if something stolen does come in, the pawn shop can identify the suspect (the person that brought it in) and attempt to recover the item(s) from them so that the victim can get them back!
When a pawnbroker opens their doors in the morning, there’s a very good chance that they’ve already been in contact with the law enforcement officials in the area around them and they know what items were reported stolen the day or night before.
They will know when they see those items come through their doors, and they will do everything they can to trap the bad guy.
When it comes to stolen items coming into pawn shops, more often than not, the pawnbroker is your friend – and it’s important to remember that when dealing with them if you’ve recently had something taken.