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Pawn shops oppose photos

Pawn shop owners on Thursday opposed a proposal by the city of Medford that would require photos of all purchased items to help police identify stolen goods.

“Trying to take pictures of each item is a massive task,” said Steve Wright of Valley Pawn.

Wright and other pawn shop owners said they supported the other changes proposed by Medford police.

The City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the new rules for pawn shops but delayed for three months implementing the photo requirement.

Currently, shops that buy used jewelry and gold must keep the goods for five days, after which it is often melted. Police say they need at least 15 days because the investigation frequently takes longer than five days. The council approved the 15-day hold period.

The 15-day proposal is a compromise; other Oregon cities require holding for up to 30 days.

To help pawn shops, the police wanted to change the notification period from the same business day to within 24 hours for items purchased. The council also approved that provision.

Pawn shop owners said it would be difficult to take photos of each item, particularly if they have dozens of transactions each day. Taking a good, clear photo, then uploading it into the system can be time-consuming, they said.

Medford police Sgt. Brent Mak said his agency wasn’t requiring photos of each item. He said a single photo could include 20 DVDs or several pieces of jewelry.

“We have entered photos in 10 seconds,” Mak said.

The city only requires taking photos of items sold to the pawn shops but not for items pawned, he said.

Medford police have received reports of 647 items stolen this year through Dec. 15. They have recovered 520 items.

Mak said many of the pawn shops advertise on eBay and post photos of items for sale.

“In a sense, they are already doing it,” he said.

Mak said police would help train pawn shops to streamline the uploading process as much as possible.

Some shops have started taking photos of purchased items, and Mak said those photos have proved beneficial in investigations.

Keanon Ferguson, part owner of All-Star Pawn, said it was a hassle figuring out how to deal with the computer systems eight months ago.

Ferguson said he spent hours learning the system, but it still takes him 45 minutes to an hour each day to make sure the photos get uploaded correctly.

He even hired a computer specialist to see whether there was a way to get the process more streamlined. He’s also trained two employees who know how to access the system, but he said it is tedious work.

Ferguson said he understands why police want the photos, but he thinks they’re not going to bring the results they expect.

“While it’s a good idea, the execution is flawed,” he said.

Recently a woman came into his store and claimed that a ring in the case was hers and had been stolen several months earlier, but Ferguson said it was actually a ring that had belonged to his family for years.

Ferguson said many rings look very similar and a photo won’t always help in verifying whether it actually belongs to someone.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.