Port Angeles police target transient metal and jewelry buyers that buy from anonymous sellers

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles police said they are cracking down on transient businesses that buy precious metals and secondhand jewelry from anonymous sellers.

Precious Gems and Metals of Wabash, Ind., which was operating out of the Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel, was asked to stop operating Tuesday when a plainclothes officer purchased an item without being asked for identification.

“I did not make a custodial arrest, but I collected all their information,” said Port Angeles Police Downtown Resource Officer John Nutter.

“I’m going to be referring them for charges with the city prosecuting attorney.”

Legitimate pawn shops require identification from people who sell precious metals and coins, police said.

That way, a thief is running the risk of getting caught if victims of thefts see their property on display.

“That happens fairly often,” Nutter said.

“I arrest people for pawning stolen property.”

Police are asking the public to be aware of transient pawn brokers who don’t care who the seller is.

“We’re going to be stepping up the enforcement of this stuff,” said Port Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Brian Smith.

State law requires every pawnbroker and secondhand dealer to keep detailed records of their precious-metal and coin transactions. The city of Port Angeles also requires pawn shops to have a business license.

Nutter said transient pawn brokers have “very quickly become the No. 1 source for dealing in stolen property.”

“One of the challenges in this case is I’m dealing with someone from out of town,” Nutter said.

Rather than issuing a criminal citation with a mandatory court appearance date, Nutter said he referred the case to prosecutors to give them flexibility to work with the suspect on travel arrangements.

“The city prosecutor can work with her in terms of timing and if she needs to come back for something,” he said.

Meanwhile, police are asking the public to be on the lookout for shady pawn dealers.

“A lot of times, they don’t require ID.”

A citizen’s complaint led to the local shutdown of Precious Gems and Metals.

Based on the violations, Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher advised the company representative to terminate the secondhand buying operation.

As of Wednesday, state law will change to essentially mirror the city code. State requirements will include a prohibition for people with theft convictions to sell precious metals. Records must be kept for 30 days, and a business license will be required statewide.

Police will be auditing transactions, conducting inspections and, in some cases, using plainclothes officers to make transactions with transient businesses, Nutter said.

Anyone with knowledge of businesses buying precious metals and jewelry in violation of city code or state law is asked to phone the Port Angeles Police Department at 360-452-4545 or North Olympic Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at rob.ollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com

Last modified: June 16. 2011 12:36AM
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