The Hippo


Apr 19, 2019








Albert “AJ” Evarts holding a circa 1990 Nintendo LaserScope in his Mast Road store. Photo by Ryan Lessard.

Pawn ordinances
Goffstown considers hold time on secondhand goods

By Ryan Lessard

Goffstown officials are weighing whether to pass a new ordinance requiring pawn shops and secondhand dealers to hold on to their goods for 21 days and regularly submit inventory and seller data to police. It’s an effort to cut down on property crime, but some are worried about the negative impact on the town’s business.

Closing the donut hole
Goffstown Police Chief Robert Browne, who helped craft the ordinance, said this problem wasn’t on his radar when he was sworn in to the position last year.
“This came from my detectives who were continually being sent to a store in our town to recover property that was stolen, either in our jurisdiction or elsewhere,” Browne said.
Goffstown was one of the only communities left in the area with no rules requiring pawn shops and secondhand dealers to hold on to their goods for a set period of time and submit inventory and seller data to police on a regular basis. That makes it easier for thieves and burglars to turn their ill-gained property into cash without being caught.
Browne said his detectives first caught wind of the disparity in ordinances during a multijurisdictional info sharing meeting.
“Everybody around us — Bedford, Hooksett, Manchester, Londonderry, Derry, Salem — all of the places that have retail, commercial businesses [have] a pawnbroker and secondhand dealer ordinance,” Brown said. “We were the ones that didn’t.”
This not only made it less likely for property stolen in Goffstown to be recovered, it also meant it was attracting a criminal element from Manchester and other nearby towns, according to Browne.
He said property crime is up 25 percent in Goffstown. When investigators in Goffstown and elsewhere were asking confidential informants where the stolen property was going, many of them pointed to one particular store.
“We found out that we had a specific place in town that was actually purchasing a lot of it,” Browne said.
He hopes the new regulations would help put an end to that activity and prevent other pawnbrokers who deal with stolen goods from moving into town.
But Browne doesn’t want to inadvertently hurt small businesses. After all, he estimates there are only five to seven stores in Goffstown that would be affected by the rule change. But at a recent public hearing on the proposed ordinance, that’s exactly what some businesses said would happen.
Too burdensome for businesses?
Browne modeled the Goffstown draft ordinance after the ordinance in Manchester, which has been in force since August 2012. But there are a few differences. For one, the hold time in Manchester is 30 days, while the proposed prohibition period on reselling for Goffstown would be 21 days. Secondly, Manchester has the city’s secondhand business owners electronically file their information to the LeadsOnline database directly. This replaced a system in which a community police officer would visit the businesses weekly to pick up a shoe-box of paper forms and hand them all to an individual in the police station who would then enter it into a database. 
Goffstown’s rule would have shop owners fill out the paper forms and send them to the police within 48 hours of the transaction.
During the hearing on April 13, Goffstown state Rep. John Burt told council members the ordinance sends a negative message to businesses considering setting up in town.
“Goffstown is known to be anti-business,” Burt told the Hippo. “This will be just one more ordinance that will tell prospective businesses that.”
“I think [Goffstown police] should protect the homeowner, but I don’t think this ordinance will do it,” Burt said. “I’ve talked to a lot of businesses in Manchester and they said [the ordinance there] is a disaster.”
One of the most controversial elements of the Manchester ordinance is how the department pays for the $30,000 database, which scales its price by the population. In Manchester, pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers must pay a dollar per transaction to the police department.
Mark Tripoli, the owner of Manchester Pawn, said it was the first pawn shop to open in the city in 1992. By and large, Tripoli said his business is unaffected by the rule, but he can see how some with cashflow problems might be. He estimated he sends about $300 a month to the police.
“That bill, I could pay phone and Internet with that money,” Tripoli said.
A secondhand shop owner, Albert “AJ” Evarts is the pop in his mom-and-pop store, LevelUp Gaming. He owns the vintage video game store with his wife, Bridget. Evarts’ store was originally located in Manchester but after five years he moved it to Goffstown a few months ago because the dollar-per-transaction fee was too cost-prohibitive in a business that buys products for as low as 50 cents.
“That’s fine for like Best Buy and GameStop. For a small mom-and-pop, it could add up to a whole other rent per month,” Evarts said.
Plus, he estimates the paperwork adds about two or three hours of work every day.
And if the Goffstown ordinance is adopted as it’s currently written, Evarts would have to pay an annual $250 licensing fee and be subject to fines up to $1,000 for violations.
“[Buying] 100 Atari games, you might mess one or two up. Is that going to cost me $1,000 or is it not?” Evarts said.
Evarts started a petition to have an exemption added for his business on and at time of printing there were more than 140 signatures.
Other business owners who would be affected if the rules change include Chris and Beverly Powden, who own Powden Jewelers. They argued at the hearing that since they don’t resell jewelry — they repurpose it — their business should fall into a different category.
Manchester’s Assistant Police Chief Nick Willard, a Goffstown resident, also attended the hearing. He said that after hearing some of the concerns people like the Evartses and the Powdens have, he’d consider proposing exemptions in Manchester for consignment shops, antique shops and niche market stores.
Browne said there’s still ample opportunity to amend the proposed ordinance with similar exemptions in Goffstown.
Right now, the only exemptions in Manchester are for used clothes, books, furniture and automobiles.
Manchester police: It works
Meanwhile, police officers like Detective David Dupont of the Manchester Police Department, who works with the LeadsOnline database every day, say there’s no doubt this system works.
Dupont said he was in charge of the burglary unit when they first adopted the program in 2012.
“So, I was doing a lot of pawn searches on there,” Dupont said.
He estimated there’s been an 80-percent improvement in finding stolen property in the past few years.
Dupont recalled one example in Portsmouth where a pharmaceutical company reported a theft of $144,000 worth of property. A Portsmouth detective noticed some of the product was selling on eBay by a local pawnbroker and being shipped from Manchester, so he called Dupont. Dupont did a search on LeadsOnline.
“And lo and behold, it’s here in Manchester and we were able to find that ... and, out of the $144,000, we were able to recover about $135,000 worth of stuff,” Dupont said.
And Dupont said even if a stolen item hasn’t been logged into the database when they first search for it, that search is saved and it creates an alert if it gets added later.
A second public hearing on the proposed Goffstown ordinance is scheduled for April 27 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. 
As seen in the April 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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