Thieves, your choices for unloading stolen goods in Illinois will likely shrink beginning with the new year.
Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti is now taking steps to make sure appropriate businesses know about the Resale Dealers Act signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August. It goes into effect Jan. 1.
“I think this could really be a good mechanism for curbing theft,” Zanotti said. “If this can be enforced, ideally in every county, I think you would see a decrease because you won’t have a market for these items they are stealing.”
The law requires buy and sale operators to record a detailed account of their purchases, including the identification of the seller, which must be provided to police the next day.
Zanotti said the Act closes a loophole in state law that has not mandated resellers to adhere to longstanding rules governing pawnbrokers by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Pawnshops are considered financial institutions because they loan money, whereas resellers do not.
“Basically, a week on the job, one of the major concerns I was hearing from law enforcement was the problem of unregulated resale shops,” said Zanotti, appointed in September as the county’s chief prosecutor. “The problem was we were seeing an increase in thefts, and a lot of this stuff was moving through resale shops."
Resale dealers include, but are not limited to, businesses commonly known as swap shops, cash for gold operators and jewelers that purchase and resell goods, such as jewelry, stamps, electronic equipment or any precious medals, according to the statute.
Exempted are pawnbrokers, coin dealers, auctioneers and several other classifications; nor are residential garage sales affected.
Shops that violate the law face a series of escalating fines and charges for multiple violations, including Class 4 felony charges for a fourth offense, punishable by one to three years upon conviction.
It is unclear how many of these stores are in Williamson County, something Zanotti said he is researching. Part of the challenge is operators are not licensed, unlike pawnbrokers, he noted.
Chad Craig, owner of C & S, a buy-sale shop on Illinois 148 just outside Energy, said he does not object to the law. But he said he routinely watches for suspicious persons or items, including scanning Internet-based court records when warranted.
“We had a 60-inch TV come in and they wanted $100 for it and I was like, 'This is just too fishy,' so I called the police,” he said.
Craig also maintains lists of items reported to him as stolen and has cooperated with police in investigations, he said.
Craig recently opened the store about a year after closing another in Herrin. He concedes that because there was more foot traffic at the former location, there were problems with stolen goods.
He’s hoping the rural highway location of his new store will cut down on that, he said.
Energy Police Chief Shawn Ladd, who was named as a special liaison between the state’s attorney’s office and local police agencies shortly after Zanotti’s appointment, said he is looking forward to the law’s implementation.
“As a general rule, there is a lot of stolen property moving through them whether or not employees or the owners were aware. I can tell you in some situations they were,” he said.