Only a few years ago, it was easy for crooks to sell items they had stolen – silverware, jewelry, firearms, what have you. They just drove to a pawnshop located some distance from where the crime had occurred and sold what they had stolen.
Local police were usually unable to recover stolen items. What small police department, after all, had the time and resources to send investigators to all the pawnshops within a few hundred miles to look for a stolen spoon or fork?
The situation was bad for everyone except the crooks. Crime victims never recovered their stuff. And pawnshop owners, who are generally only trying to run honest businesses, ended up selling stolen goods.
Enter Online Databases
All that is now changing, thanks to new online databases of stolen goods. One is Leadsonline.com, which has built an online directory of stolen goods that law enforcement agencies across the country can access. The idea behind Leadsonline.com is simplicity itself. When anything is stolen, local police departments upload information about it onto the database. Then, when anyone brings items into a pawnshop to pawn, the owner of that business goes online and checks to see whether they have been stolen. Pawnshops are motivated to use the service because police have the right to confiscate stolen goods from them – without paying them back. So Leadsonline.com protects them from unexpected losses.
Leadsonline.com also benefits local police departments, because pawnshops who subscribe to the service enter information about the items they receive. If someone comes into a store and pawns a gold ring, a gun, a platinum necklace or anything else, for example, the pawnshop owner enters information about it into the Leadsonline.com database, where local police departments can check to see if it matches a stolen item.
The result is that it becomes a lot more difficult for crooks to sell goods they have stolen. Will it, and similar databases, discourage criminal activity? It is doing that already. In just the last few months, police have used information from Leadsonline.com to solve hundreds of burglaries, forgeries and other crimes.
What This Means for Precious Metals
We, like all honest business people, are enthusiastic about these new crime-fighting tools. They are one more positive step forward for our industry, which has already taken steps to reject “dirty” gold that comes from mines that employ underpaid, underage miners, to embrace “green” recycled gold and to uphold ethical standards of doing business. If we are entering an age when we can be assured that the precious metals we trade in have not been stolen, that can only be good for our industry, for collectors, and for everyone else who owns or invests in precious metals.
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