Federal Way leaders want the state to more closely regulate secondhand dealers offering "cash for gold," hoping to thwart criminals from converting stolen jewelry into fast dollars.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Katrina Asay, R-Milton, would require dealers to keep stricter records on sellers of gold, silver and platinum.
Federal Way police want to stop dealers who buy jewelry and send it out immediately to be melted down. They include many transient dealers who operate out of kiosks and hotel rooms.
“What they’re doing is accepting precious metals and sending it out the next day,” said Federal Way Police Chief Brian J. Wilson .
Those selling the jewelry to dealers would have their photo identification copied. For sales of more than $100, sellers would be fingerprinted and couldn’t be paid in cash.
Dealers also would be required to hold on to the precious metals for 45 days, up from the current mandate of 30 days.
The proposal, now called House Bill 1716, already had a public hearing and may get a vote in the House public safety committee this week.
It is just the latest legislation in recent years that takes aim at a crime trend by increasing recordkeeping for businesses that may unwittingly contribute to illicit activity.
In 2007 Washington legislators passed a law to thwart drug addicts who steal copper wire and aluminum to get money to buy drugs. That law added more regulations on scrap dealers, including a recordkeeping provision.
A few years before that, the state adopted rules requiring retail stores to keep a logbook of customers buying Sudafed, Actifed and other potential meth-making drugs.
The latest proposal would be onerous for business, said Tony Neely, owner of South Hill Rare Coins & Precious Metals .
“For business owners that play by the rules and have a business license, it’s going to hinder us
The recession and high gold prices have driven people to trade in gold for cash. The price of gold has soared more than five-fold in the past 12 years to more than $1,300 an ounce.
Federal Way is among those concerned by an increase in home burglaries involving jewelry thefts.
From 2009 to 2010, residential burglaries increased in Federal Way by 15 percent, from 559 to 645 cases, Wilson said. The number of home burglaries in which jewelry was stolen increased 13 percent during the same period, from 110 to 124 cases.
But the city isn’t just waiting for the Legislature to take action.
A proposal to add changes to Federal Way city code will be considered by a City Council committee today. It would increase the holding time in city code from 15 to 45 days and require items to be entered into an online law enforcement data base.
Having more time and more data at hand would help police recover stolen property, Wilson said.
Under both the legislative and city proposals, violations would be a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Besides increasing the deterrent for home burglaries, Wilson said the bill would provide information to catch thieves and return stolen jewelry to its owners.
He said police would enforce the regulations even against transient dealers, questioning them if necessary when they set up their operations.
Neely, the South Hill businessman, said he doubts the bill would catch its intended target. He said he doesn’t think police will be able to, or have time to, enforce the law against transient operations.
Neely’s secondhand dealer’s license with Pierce County for his business at 14003 Meridian E. already requires him to hold items for 15 days, he said. He said he logs the seller’s name, address, phone number and driver’s license number.
Neely also objected to the legislation barring cash payment for amounts greater than $100 and requiring fingerprints.
“It’s just going to be really cumbersome having to write $100 checks when we normally pay cash,” Neely said.
“Now, I’ve to get their fingerprints? That’s just nuts.”
Some other states have laws dealing with precious metals. Bob-bi Cussins , a public information officer for the House Republican Caucus, said Asay’s bill is based on state pawnbroker regulations.
“The honest ones will be able to comply,” said Asay, who proposed the bill at the urging of Federal Way officials. “This gives the police officers the tools to make sure they’re legitimate.
“Hopefully,” the freshman legislator said, “it will dramatically reduce the break-ins in the homes.”
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 firstname.lastname@example.org