AUGUSTA — To help track down thieves who steal power tools, video games and other commonly stolen items, the Augusta Police Department is asking the City Council to strengthen record keeping requirements for secondhand shops.

A revised ordinance proposal designed to do just that received a favorable reception Thursday during a City Council informational session. Among other things, the revised proposal would require additional record keeping for the nine types of items police said are stolen most commonly: video game systems, televisions, digital photography and video equipment, mobile phones, GPS devices, computer equipment and related items, power tools, firearms, and jewelry.

“Those are our common items that are stolen at a high rate,” Jared Mills, deputy police chief, told councilors Thursday. “Some of the most common items we get stolen are power tools. Those are our citizens, our workers, builders (losing items they need to theft). That’s one of the things falling through the cracks.”

The originally proposed requirement that records including the names of both sellers and buyers be kept of all transactions, and that all items purchased by a secondhand shop be held for at least 15 days before they are re-sold, were revised after complaints from secondhand shop owners that keeping so many records would be burdensome. The business owners also said keeping all items they take in for that long would require them to add storage space, with the added cost of doing business potentially even prompting them to close.

To address those complaints, city police, with an attorney, made changes to the ordinance. In addition to limiting the record keeping requirements to commonly stolen items, another change is that it would apply only to items valued at more than $50, unless the seller sells more than $150 worth of items to the shop within 30 days.

Also the proposed ordinance would not apply to anyone who purchases goods only in bulk, such as at estate sales or government auctions.

Councilors reacted favorably to the revised proposal Thursday and are expected to vote on the first of two required readings of it at their next business meeting, scheduled for Thursday.

“I think you did a great job. You tightened up the language,” Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti said of the revised ordinance.

The ordinance sets the penalty for violating it at $100 to $2,500.

At-Large Councilor Corey Wilson expressed concern that the potential maximum penalty would be too high for a city ordinance violation.

“Why would we have up to a $2,500 fine for a violation of city ordinance? That seems awfully steep to me,” Wilson said.

Conti said she thinks the penalty is fair and the higher fines probably would be used only for a repeat offender. She said a judge would have the discretion to set the amount of the fine, anywhere within the $100-to-$2,500 range.

Mills said police met with shop owners who complained after the first draft of the proposal was presented in June to get their input on what should be changed.

No shop owners spoke out on the issue at Thursday’s council meeting.

The measure was proposed by police to help them track and recover stolen goods after thieves sell them, so the items would be easier to find if they are sold to shops, and so police also could determine who sold the stolen items to the shops.

Mills said the city now has no ordinance that requires secondhand dealers to record information about the sellers of items they purchase. Pawnbrokers, who lend money to people based on the value of the borrower’s personal property, which is turned over to the pawnbroker in exchange for the loan, already are required to keep such records. If the person who pawned an item doesn’t repay the loan within a specified time, the pawnbroker may sell the item.

The proposed ordinance is based on one already in place in Auburn. Augusta police Chief Robert Gregoire said previously that Auburn’s ordinance requirement allowed Augusta police to solve thefts that occurred in Augusta because the thieves sold stolen merchandise to pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers in Auburn. He wants to bring a similar ordinance to Augusta.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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