Secondhand products ordinance to be rewritten

July 19, 2010
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Grand Rapids city commissioners unanimously agreed last week to have a proposed ordinance rewritten because they felt its reach was too broad and would have been an economic burden on some of the city’s smallest businesses.

The ordinance, which came before the commission a month ago, would have had businesses that sell used and secondhand goods file daily electronic reports on all merchandise received with the city’s detective bureau as part of the police department’s effort to track down stolen goods. The reports were to include photographs of the goods.

Antique dealers, consignment shops, used book and music stores, jewelers, pawn shops, art galleries and precious metal dealers all trade in secondhand goods, and many contacted commissioners with their concerns about the ordinance.

“Because it was new to us and new to the public, we started to get a lot of feedback,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

“In the initial ordinance that was presented to us, some of the language was vague when people read it,” said 2nd Ward Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss.

The ordinance’s next version is expected to largely focus its reporting requirements on pawn shops and other businesses that sell used and reconditioned electronic devices, such as flat-screen TVs, gaming systems and video games.

“We want to make sure that we speak with the ones that are affected,” said 1st Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski.

Much of the feedback commissioners received was forwarded to Capt. Jeff Hertel, who commands the city’s detective bureau. He scrapped part of his vacation to meet with four of the concerned business owners, and had planned to contact six more retailers, until the commission took its action last week.

“We’re interested in who is taking stuff off the street,” said Hertel of the ordinance’s key element. “I think people were fairly comfortable after we spoke with them.” He added that video games and game players, gold jewelry and flat-screen TVs make up most stolen items.

City Attorney Catherine Mish said Assistant City Attorney Margaret Bloemers would rewrite the new version. Commissioners asked Mish to have the ordinance ready for their review by Sept. 28. The action commissioners took last week eliminates the need for a public hearing scheduled for Aug. 10.

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