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City, jewelers still at odds over pawn ordinance

The Rochester Police Department is now armed with a bit more evidence to argue in favor of making jewelry stores adhere to pawn-shop-type regulations.

At least two Rochester jewelry retailers inadvertently purchased stolen property from suspects later arrested for a rash of burglaries that took place between March 1 and June 28, said Sgt. Eric Strop of the Rochester Police Department's property crimes unit.

For Strop, the stolen purchases by the jewelry retailers are evidence that Rochester's pawn ordinance should require all businesses that buy jewelry to follow the daily reporting practices already required of the city's two pawn shops.

One of the stores that bought the stolen property is JD Coin. Strop said he couldn't disclose the name of the other retailer, a jewelry store, because he is awaiting further information about the transaction. Three suspects in connection with the 162 burglaries were charged June 24 in Olmsted County District Court.

In January, Strop proposed that the Rochester City Council amend the pawn ordinance to require jewelers to use a free reporting software program, developed by the Minneapolis Police Department, to log all of their purchases from customers.


They would need to enter detailed descriptions of items and their identification numbers, photos of each item and photos of the people who sold the items. The businesses also would have to obtain identification information from the customers.

However, a group of Rochester jewelers continues to oppose the idea, saying it would put undue burden and cost on their businesses while making their customers uncomfortable.

"Basically, we'd be treating our customers like they're a part of a crime before there's even been a theft," said Bob Church, manager of Lasker Jewelers in downtown Rochester.

Both Church and Strop said meetings involving them, City Council members, city staff and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce have failed to produce a compromise that is acceptable to all parties.

The jewelers group proposed an alternative they think would address everything the police want but in a less time-consuming and costly way for jewelers, Church said.

"And it would not pry into the details of transactions. It would only bring information forward if there's a request based on an actual theft reported. It's every tool they need to effectively apprehend and prosecute for theft. But it appears as though it is not satisfactory to Sgt. Strop. They want to lump us in with the pawn brokers," he said.

Strop said he met with the jewelers a couple of times but has decided to stick with his initial proposal.

"The problem, from our perspective, is we've had over $1 million worth of jewelry reported stolen from January 2012 to October of 2013. And we've only been able to recover about $76,000 worth. ... This is why I feel there's a need for this ordinance. But, yeah, we've had meetings, and they don't want to change."


The jewelers group recently hired attorney Rick Dold, of Wendland Utz in Rochester, to advise it as members continue to negotiate with the city and police department. Dold said the jewelers recently met with Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson to discuss the pawn ordinance.

"We've got a commitment between the police department, the jewelers and the chamber to find a solution that will help the police, protect the jewelers and protect their customers," Dold said.

City Administrator Steve Kvenvold said he's has been trying to put the pawn ordinance amendment on the City Council's agenda during the last couple of months — in fact, it was scheduled for a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting and then removed — but he's received requests to hold off for now.

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