New Law To Violate Customer Privacy in Cobb County?

Just yesterday I wrote about a law that may force some pawn shops to upload their transaction information to a third party vendor and they would then make it available to police departments.

Turns out, that isn’t the only law in the works to do that – but this one is far more intrusive.

I understand the role of law enforcement.

Before I worked in a pawn shop, I was in lawn enforcement. I did the whole course – went through the academy, got a job on a small department and decided that after all of that – I didn’t care for it.

But that having been said, I understand law enforcement’s critical role in society.

Most importantly, when it comes to theft and helping the public recover their merchandise – the police department may be the public’s only hope in recovering their merchandise.

That having been said, there are some laws being entertained that are going too far in my opinion.

Stopping The Bad Guys Or Bullying The Good Guys?

For instance, there is a new law being considered in Cobb County that would require pawn shops to actually take pictures of their customers and upload them to yet another (undetermined) third party vendor.

As you can read directly from the article at: http://mdjonline.com/view/full_story/23126649/article-Privacy-in-pawn-shops–Ordinance-would-require-shops-to-participate-in-online-database?instance=secondary_story_bullets_left_column

The Cobb Board of Commissioners is considering an ordinance that would require pawn shops and precious metal dealers in unincorporated Cobb to participate in an online digital database. The system would allow police to access information and photos of pawn store inventory and customers. That would require photos to be taken not only of items being pawned, but also of the customers pawning them.

Some store owners see it as an invasion of privacy by police.

busted_300No Kidding! That’s absolutely ridiculous.

That really is assuming that everyone who walks into a pawn shop is guilty or at very least a suspect in a crime and needs to be documented as such.

But wait, this law gets even better…

Not only would pawn shops have to humiliate their customers who are already in a time of need by asking them to submit to photographing, but the pawnbroker would then have to pay to upload and handle that picture and information…

A private vendor would also carry a cost that would be passed along to business owners, and ultimately to their customers.

The proposed ordinance says the chief of police or his designee will choose the database, and a fee for each transaction reported through the system will be charged to each business. That fee isn’t known yet because it is based on the vendor and the county. Since the county has not chosen a service, there is no contract — or fee — yet.

Really?

This is a one sided law that only serves to harm pawn shops, not aid them in identifying criminals.

What About The Laws Already Present?

What is further insulting about this new proposed law is that there is already an ordnance on the books, working and doing it’s job to keep stolen merchandise out of pawn shops.

When something stolen does show up, the pawnbrokers are taking it upon themselves to call and have it investigated.

Here, have a read:

Some business owners maintain that the ordinance on the books is plenty to keep criminals at bay. That ordinance requires pawn stores to keep fingerprints of individuals who pawn items, keep a record of the transaction for no less than four years and submit a daily report to the police. They must also keep a description of the seller and items sold.

“We believe that the intentions of the police while good are being misdirected and overkill with some of the requirements of the proposal,” O’Brian said. “In other words, we know based on our own experience that inked fingerprints have been extremely successful in identifying the criminal and has been successful, especially, in Cobb County.”

She says she has never seen prosecution fail because of a bad fingerprint.

Mike Ritchman, owner of Big Chicken Pawn, 40 Cobb Parkway, believes he already gives police the information they need to find theft suspects.

“We report all of the inventory to the police with serial numbers, model numbers and brand names, so I don’t think (the ordinance) would help that much,” said Ritchman of his store inside the Marietta city limits.

Baker says he is happy to comply with the current ordinance and takes it upon himself to call police when he finds a suspicious item in the store. He once called police when a customer wanted to pawn a stolen laptop and kept him in the store until officers arrived.

Pawn stores only get back about 20 percent of what is sold when a stolen item is confiscated, Baker said, so he does what he can to keep the problematic merchandise out of his business.

“We don’t really want to buy the (stolen) property,” Baker said.

As you can see, the current law already requires that the items be identified by brand, model and serial number – in other words, everything you would need to locate and determine if an items was involved in a crime.

Further more, the customers themselves are already identified by not just their personal information, but their fingerprint as well. And mind you, the fingerprint system has yet to have a single failure – but suddenly that’s not enough for law makers?

Ridiculous…

Pawn Shops – Helping The Community First!

As the article explains, banks aren’t helping communities with small loans anymore. It’s up to small businesses and lenders to fill that void, and pawn shops are doing just that…

In a down economy most lower and middle class Americans don’t have a large amount of money in savings, O’Brian says, and are turning to their neighborhood pawn shops for emergency cash. Banks don’t loan in small amounts like they did before the financial industry was deregulated in the 1980s, she said, and pawn shops can offer the kind of microloans individuals need when they get in a bind.

Pawn shops are a critical part of some communities, helping it’s members make it month to month when there simply isn’t enough money to go around.

Despite that, some law makers apparently still think that pawn shops are where the bad guys go…

Cuff Everyone, Even The Innocent!

Pawn shops aren’t some seedy, back ally cages filled with thugs. They are legitimate businesses with honest owners and employees looking to help the communities they serve.

The articles goes on to say…

… the “bad guys” aren’t still going to pawn shops. They’re finding street dealers and taking advantage of Internet auction web sites and flea markets.

Less than one half of one percent of all property that comes into pawn shops nationwide, she said, is identified as suspicious or stolen property.

They are no longer the smoke-filled businesses where deals are made in a back room.

“Pawn shops, unfortunately, are still viewed as the way they used to be,” O’Brian said.

As a former officer, O’Brian says she is passionate about helping police catch thieves. Her company began the idea of electronically delivering information to the police, she said.

“We’ve been there to help them, and we aggressively train our people to work closely with law enforcement,” O’Brian said.

I know in the shop I work in, we have regular interaction with law enforcement and work very closely with them to assist them in any way we can.

anonbustedLaws like the one being proposed in Cobb County would be completely unnecessary in our situation, and probably unnecessary in most areas of the country… but that doesn’t mean they are going to go away.

The Sad Truth

Unfortunately new intrusive and unfair laws like the one being debated in Cobb County will probably become more common across the country.

They are unfair to pawnbrokers – but more than that, they are insulting and intrusive to the customers of those pawn shops.

We are in a sad state when our freedoms and privacy are viewed as the problem and not the answer…

The Nerd’s Experience

Look, when someone walks into a pawn shop hoping to get a loan – they are already in a bad situation.

In fact, they are likely down to their last hope to get through whatever they may be going through at that moment.

To take those people in need and further victimize them by making the submit to intrusive and humiliating practices – to make them line up to have their picture taken like a row of suspects in a crime – is just cruel.

I understand law enforcement’s goal. I know they are there to help the public as well…

But sometimes you’ve got to afford people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, you’ve got to realize that not everyone is a bad guy…

If this law goes through, I truly feel for the customers of the pawn shops that will be affected by it.

It’s unfair, unjust, cruel and humiliating.

It makes me wonder how those law makers would feel if they were in a bad situation and their only choice was to go and be made to feel like a criminal on top of whatever else they were dealing with at that time.

If you have any questions or comments on this story, please leave them in the comment form below!

Thanks as always,

The Head Nerd