City mulls tighter pawnshop rules
Cash-for-gold outlets could see limits making it hard to unload stolen goods
The city will look at tightening bylaws governing pawnshops and the fast-growing cash-for-gold industry to try to make it harder to unload stolen jewelry. Council endorsed a motion from Mountain councillor Tom Jackson to “strengthen regulatory requirements” for the city’s 112 licensed pawnbrokers and cash-for-gold outlets. It also calls on the province to update “outdated” legislation dealing with pawnbrokers.
“This is not a knock on the many long-standing, honest, reputable businesses operating in our community,” said Jackson in an interview. “This is a way to protect property owners from suffering losses as a result of dealing with the more seedier operators that also do exist.”
Jackson said he was inspired to ask for changes in part based on the urging of constituent Jodi Formosi. The Ward 6 resident started researching the city’s cash-for-gold operators after losing around $50,000 in jewelry and family heirlooms to a breakand-enter four years ago.
“I thought, naively, that I could try to find my jewelry, that these businesses would help me retrieve these valued memories,” she said. Formosi said some of the better-known pawnbrokers in the city did indeed offer advice and go through records looking for the jewelry she described.
But she also recalled visiting shops that only advertised via scrawled, handwritten signs that said “we’ll buy your gold.”
She said in many cases, those operators didn’t appear to ask any questions about offered metals or even record transactions. “They’re just pocketing this stuff and handing over pennies on the dollar,” she said. “In my opinion, people are being exploited … This kind of setup basically encourages people to go out and commit robbery.”
Licensing director Ken Leendertse said the city is already in the midst of a major bylaw overhaul that will include the schedules for pawnbrokers.
He said the number of licensed cashfor-gold operations in Hamilton has jumped in recent years — and more unlicensed versions pop up whenever the price of the precious metal spikes.
“We think there is more we can do, particularly in improving accountability and tracking of what is bought and sold,” he said.
For example, Leendertse said the updated bylaw will try to standardize the details operators must record about purchased jewelry.
Ideally, operators will eventually be required to provide that data to police or municipal authorities in electronic form to allow for “rapid cross-referencing” against the details of reported thefts.
He expects the updated bylaw to also stop “fly-by-night” operators from coming to town for an event, buying gold, and then leaving days later.
“The changes will mean you can’t remove that purchased property from the city for 30 days,” he said.
Bylaw staff will report back to the planning committee with a list of planned and possible changes.
Hamilton police will also be requested to weigh in on potential improvements.
This kind of setup basically encourages people to go out and commit robbery. JODI FORMOSI
Coun. Tom Jackson initiated a motion to stiffen bylaws governing the city’s pawnbrokers.