- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Prince George’s County Council yesterday unanimously approved a bill that would reduce the amount of licenses available for pawn shops, which police say often attract criminals looking to unload stolen goods.

“I don’t think there’s any neighborhood that wants to see a pawn shop opening up next door,” said Prince George’s County Council member Eric Olson, who introduced the bill earlier this year.

Thirty-one licensed pawnbrokers operate in the county, which previously capped the number of available licenses at 38. The bill will eliminate the extra seven licenses and reduce the limit to 31 to keep any new pawnbrokers from moving in. The bill also stipulates that a license will not be reissued if it is either suspended or revoked.

The bill is necessary because there are too many pawnbrokers in the county, Mr. Olson said.

“We have far more than other jurisdictions in the area,” he said.

Only nine licensed pawn- brokers operate in Montgomery County and the District, although neither jurisdiction caps the number of licenses given out. In Fairfax County, there is a cap of 12 pawnbroker licenses, and in Arlington County there are three pawnbrokers and no cap.

Mr. Olson, a Democrat who represents the county’s 3rd District, which includes College Park and New Carrollton, said the issue needed to be addressed because of the amount of stolen goods that come through pawn shops. Last year, authorities recovered between $600,000 and $1 million in stolen goods from pawnbrokers in the county, he said.

Most pawn shops do make an effort to comply with the law, said Cpl. Debbi Carlson, a Prince George’s police spokeswoman.

“They are regulated,” she said. “They have been for a long time.”

Pawn shops take detailed information about each item that comes through their shop and send that report regularly to the police department. Those reports have helped police solve cases on many occasions, Cpl. Carlson said.

Stolen goods still find their way into pawn shops, however.

“You’re going to have that at any pawn shop,” she said.

Michael Cohen, manager of Top Dollar Pawnbrokers in Oxon Hill, said pawn shops often get a bad rap that is unwarranted. His staff always asks for two forms of identification, a Social Security number and serial numbers, if possible, whenever something is pawned in the store, he said.

He pointed to online auction houses such as EBay as a far bigger source for criminals to peddle stolen merchandise.

“In this day and age, we do more good than harm,” he said. “We work closely with the police department to have perpetrators apprehended.”

The bill still requires the signature of County Executive Jack B. Johnson. Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, has two weeks to review the bill, which will take effect 45 days after he signs it.

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