Clackamas County commissioners postponed rules to crack down on the increasing issue of stolen property being sold through secondhand dealers such as pawnshops, due to continued controversy surrounding one of the amendment's rules on Thursday, July 15.
Three proposed regulations to the county's secondhand dealer laws would no longer regulate firearms, use collection agencies for unpaid fines or fees owed to the county, and — most controversial of all — require dealers to photograph the items they acquire and place for sale.
Many secondhand dealers believe taking a photo of each item as it comes through is too much of an added burden upon them, according to Assistant County Counsel Scott Ciecko.
During the amendment's first reading at a July 1 meeting, Ciecko explained that photos would help law enforcement track down stolen property.
"Not all property has things like serial numbers or other identifying marks, so having a photograph of that is important for the sheriff's office to be able to track that property," Ciecko said.
In between the two meetings, sheriff's officials began investigating the practicality and effectiveness of the photograph rule and have found that most secondhand dealers would mainly be burdened by photographing non-serialized items.
At Thursday's meeting, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Detective Jed Wilson said since secondhand dealers are already required by law to document serial numbers in an online program accessible by police, the main goal of this amendment is to require documentation of items without serial numbers such as jewelry.
"Serial numbers are required to be documented, which is then easy for us to check. Items such as jewelry, things that don't have serial numbers are the items that originally we were looking to capture in those photographs, that are one-of-a-kind items that can't be replaced," Wilson said.
He added that he'd recently been in contact with secondhand dealers who say the photograph rule is unrealistic for their business model.
"It appears to be a considerable lift for those dealers to photograph every single item that comes through their store," Wilson said, reiterating that the sheriff's office more concerned with documenting items without serial numbers and that requiring all items to be photographed is "probably unnecessary."
Hal Hallmark, secondhand dealer and owner of the store STUFF in Happy Valley spoke out in agreement with Wilson.
"Jewelry is the problem," said Hallmark. "Items that are serialized — a Canon camera or a Pioneer receiver — they all look exactly the same. There's only one thing that makes them different, and that's the serial number, and that's recorded already. Things like jewelry, and I've talked with law enforcement over the years, it's a struggle for them because a description of a diamond ring means nothing. But a picture would mean everything.
Josh Hamblin, owner of video game store SideQuest Games in Oak Grove, virtually called into the meeting to explain why the proposed photograph rule presents a burden for his staff, as video games generally do not have serial numbers either.
"My problem with the proposal is that trying to capture the thousands of items we take in with no identifying marks is a huge burden," Hamblin said. "Our average trade-in for video games is just over 50 items, with trade-ins in the hundreds being very common and some trade-ins in the thousands about every other month or so. So taking individual pictures of those items would just be — it's just too much time."
Chair Tootie Smith, saying it appeared that "more review and study" was needed on the issue, moved to postpone the amendment to a third reading on Thursday, July 29. Commissioners approved the motion unanimously.
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