Below is a letter concerning new legislation I have sent to most of the Prince George’s County Council. Unfortunately I have not heard back from any of them. Bill CB-40-2010 will eventually put all Pawnshops in Prince George’s County out of business. We need as much support as we can get. The public hearing for the bill will be on September 7th, 10am at the County Administrative Building. 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive – Upper Marlboro, MD 20772. Please attend if you can or call your local council members to express your disappointment in their support of this bill. As of today it is believed that every member of the council is ready to sign this bill into law yet not one of them has ever stepped foot in my store to see what we really do. This is the forth bill in the past four years Eric Olson has submitted against Pawn Shops – on his website under his list of priorities for fighting crime he has Pawnshops as his #1, above gangs and police funding. Please Help!
As the owner of Top Dollar Pawnbrokers in Prince George’s County I am extremely concerned with the impact of Bill CB-40-2010 on my business, family and livelihood. It would be my pleasure to have you visit my store and have an opportunity to voice the concerns of myself, my colleagues and the employees + families who rely on this industry for their survival; a mere phone conversation would be appreciated.
My concern is that this bill is being passed by individuals who do not fully understand its gravity and impact on our local community. I commend Eric Olson’s pro-activity in trying to fight crime but in a business reality this bill has nothing at all do with crime. Pawnshops are not the havens for criminals to drop their loot like they once were. Approximately 80% of our customers are here simply for a loan to pay a bill, get gas or cover extra expenses they did not prepare for. We are their last resort, the door that is always open when they need to put food on their table. Our average loan is $100- there is no other outlet that can provide that immediate or that small of a loan.
Less than half of a percent of merchandise is stolen and/or confiscated by the police. ‘Confiscated’ as a descriptor makes it sound like we are something “bad”, but the fact is our reporting & documenting of pawned inventory paves the way for police to recover items used in criminal prosecution. Retail shops in the vicinity of my business routinely purchase illegal goods off the street and do no reporting. In a meeting with Eric Olson over a year ago I told him about this and he told me to go to the police, which I expressed to him I had already done numerous times. The police tell me they don’t have the resources to investigate – yet they have the resources to audit my store twice a month. If fighting crime was really their goal my concerns would have been acted on by both the police and Eric Olson. Rather than make us their scapegoat and PR campaign why not let us help them as we have offered to do.
Legislation CB-40-2010 is putting the focus of fighting crime in the wrong place and wasting taxpayer money with nothing to gain. The new bill would levy $100 fines on my employees and $1000 fines on the store for trivial clerical errors. For example, one of my store managers was in court yesterday for a must-appear $25 civil penalty due to a transaction receipt’s missing signature, unearthed by a detective’s audit. This was 1 receipt out of almost 3000 total, a 1-in-3000 error of no consequence that would result in $1100 worth of fines under the new legislation. While I understand the intention of the legislative process, I wish to bring to your attention that this is NOT a productive direction our legislation should be taking. There are better solutions to identify and fight crime in the pawn community. After a dozen audits the above scenario is the worst that detectives have found yet the audits and the legislation against pawnshops only get tougher – as if authorities are determined to prove that Pawn is a dirty word.
There is a second part to Bill CB-40-2010 that infringes on my rights, stating that I can no longer sell my business. My father opened our family-owned and family-run pawnshop almost twenty five years ago. I am hoping one day to pass the business on to my son. In the absence of this opportunity I will be left with no retirement plan, no security, no asset. Another local merchant, a friend of mine, was planning on retiring within the next two years. According to this bill she cannot sell her business, and so she has dedicated her life to building her business that no longer has a value. We have no Plan B, this is our life’s work.
This legislation should not be about Eric Olson’s opinion on Pawnshops or anyone’s impression of what they are/are not. Pawnshops are businesses which are needed in the community now more than ever as people need ways in a poor economy to temporarily cover small expenses. Last year my business averaged 50 pawn transactions per day, meaning we were loaning out to 50 individuals daily. This year we are averaging close to 90 loans per day. For those $30-$120 loans our customers have no place else to go. Their choice is to borrow money against their jewelry, TV and valuables or risk having their electricity shut off, collection agencies come after them for medical bills and car payments… AND NEARLY 70% of our customers come back to retrieve their pawned item. These are non-recourse short-term loans made by law abiding active citizens. We are a solution, we are not the problem.
Please consider visiting my shop or letting me come in to meet with you. I represent a community of new-generation pawn business owners, and we appreciate any time that you can offer to voice our concerns.
Council Members: http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/council/
Eric Olsons Priorities: http://electericolson.org/priorities/
Actual Bill: Click Here