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Federal Way hopes 'cash for gold' law reduces burglaries | Gold is selling at all-time high

In this February photo, Ryan Vanderlinda holds a sign at the corner of 320th Street and Pacific Highway South advertising the services of Federal Way’s American Gold Inc. The business buys precious metals.  - Mirror file photo
In this February photo, Ryan Vanderlinda holds a sign at the corner of 320th Street and Pacific Highway South advertising the services of Federal Way’s American Gold Inc. The business buys precious metals.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

City officials hope to curb the amount of residential burglaries that target jewelry and other precious metals in Federal Way.

The Federal Way City Council unanimously passed an ordinance April 19 in hopes of curbing the problem.

The jump in property crime in the city is being blamed on the proliferation of “cash for gold” businesses, which offer on-the-spot cash for precious metals, according to officials. Gold is currently selling at more than $1,500 an ounce, which is an all-time high.

From 2009 to 2010, Federal Way experienced an increase in residential burglaries. In 2009, 559 of these crimes were reported. Last year, that number rose to 645. This reflects a 15 percent increase. Burglary cases involving stolen jewelry jumped from 110 to 124 — a 13 percent increase — in the same time frame, according to Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson.

Police suspect stolen jewelry is finding its way to the “cash for gold” dealers who have set up shop on a temporary basis, looking to make a quick profit.

“The problem is getting the small buyers who are popping up at grocery stories, gas stations or in the mall to comply,” said Don Rand, owner of Don’s Estate Jewelry and Coin, who is in favor of the new law. “Some of them aren’t following the rules.”

The new law, which goes into effect June 1, requires gold buyers to hold items 30 days. Original discussions had the city using a 45-day holding period, which was met by opposition from business owners.

“The 45 days was all that really bothered me,” Rand said. “The 30 days falls in line and compliance with the statewide rules. We have always held for 30 days and the state law has required it. I think this law is good.”

Buyers must also obtain a temporary business license if doing business in a location for less than 90 days. Buyers must photograph the identification and take the right fingerprint of sellers. The law also requires items be entered into the national Leads Online database, which is used by law enforcement to identify and recover stolen goods.

“This gives our police officers additional tools to help protect residents from these thefts and recover and return stolen items,” Wilson said.

The idea behind both policies is to not only help police catch the bad guys, but to assist rightful owners in getting their property back.

“It’s clear that illegitimate secondhand buyers were facilitating the movement of stolen goods from home thefts,” said Federal Way City Councilman Jim Ferrell, a King County senior deputy prosecutor.

Ferrell noted that thieves could sell stolen items for immediate cash while the buyers ship the stolen jewelry and metals out of state to be melted down.

“We’re putting a stop to that by requiring these businesses to observe fundamental best practices,” Ferrell said.

Federal Way’s ordinance is similar to legislation recently passed by the state Legislature. Ferrell had praise for Rep. Katrina Asay and Sen. Tracey Eide, who responded to the city’s concerns about secondhand precious metals and jewelry buyers and led efforts to pass the state law.

“Washington state’s legislation will provide needed consistency between local cities,” Ferrell said. “Our ordinance allows us to fine tune the law to meet our local law enforcement needs.”

He noted that the city’s requirements for keeping records and using the Leads database came at the request of the Federal Way Police Department.

“It’s going to be up to the police department to follow through and prosecute those who aren’t in compliance with the laws and ordinances,” Rand said. “It would be a real easy thing to implement.”

 

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