City passes secondhand ordinance

December 4, 2010
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Most retail shops and nonprofit organizations in Grand Rapids that sell used goods will not have to file electronic reports with the city’s detective bureau when they take in certain types of merchandise. 

City commissioners unanimously approved a new ordinance last week that primarily requires pawn shop owners to file those reports when they purchase electronic goods such as computers, video game players and games, GPS devices, TVs, power tools and other devices that normally top the list of stolen items. And the owners will have to file those reports at their expense.

A report requires pawnbrokers to make a digital photo of an item and include basic information such as make, model and serial number. Personal information about a seller, along with a thumbprint, also is required. Pawn shops also will have to tag each item and hold on to it for 15 days before putting it up for sale. All data will be sent electronically to the detective bureau on a daily basis.

The ordinance exempts art galleries, used bookstores, clothing consignment shops, antique dealers and businesses that sell used household goods, nonprofit sellers of used clothing and goods, and used car dealers from having to make the e-reports.

“We have revised the ordinance to exempt certain dealers from electronic reporting,” said Margaret Bloemers, the assistant city attorney who rewrote the city statute.

But all secondhand businesses will have to be licensed by the city, keep a record of all purchases and exchanges of secondhand goods, and report any transaction that involves an electronic item. The manner in which electronic goods are reported can be negotiated with the police department.

Violating the ordinance results in a misdemeanor that is punishable by imprisonment for up to 90 days, a fine not to exceed $500 and repayment for the city’s cost to prosecute a case. A criminal violation of the ordinance and its related state laws will result in a business having its license revoked for a year.

The first version of the ordinance, which debuted about four months ago, drew criticism from business owners, such as owners of antique shops. They complained that having to electronically report the items they purchase would become a financial burden that could force them to go out of business. Commissioners agreed and asked for the statute to be rewritten.

The new ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1.

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