By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — A New Hampshire House panel wants a commission to review regulation of pawnbrokers, antique dealers and cash-for-gold dealers.
The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee is recommending the commission include business representatives and study ways to better protect theft victims.
Chairman Ed Butler, D-Hart’s Location, said the committee, meeting this week, concluded the issue is too complicated to take action now, needs more review and should first hear from affected businesses.
“It’s just too complex,” Butler said. “We don’t want to impact business in a negative way.”
Rep. David Huot, D-Laconia, sponsored House Bill 343 that called for tightening regulations on businesses the committee ended up studying this fall.
Huot, speaking prior to the committee vote, acknowledged his bill needed more work and would go along with the panel’s wishes.
“I’d like to have this lead to a situation where police have an easier time tracing items that are stolen,” Huot said.
Huot stressed he’s not trying to hurt businesses.
“The focus of the bill is not punative in nature, it’s regulatory,” he said.
Huot said he introduced the bill in response to a case in Gilford where stolen goods were gone to the smelter within hours of a theft. He would penalize those businesses that don’t cooperate with police in trying to stop personal property losses.
“The problem involves jewelry and electronics stolen in burglaries and rapidly disposed of,” Huot said.
He aims to increase transparency for transactions so police can determine who sold property to a shop.
“Many dealers are first-class operators,” Huot said.
They photograph individuals and keep detailed records, he said.
“But, as in any field, there are marginal operators who just like to make money,” he said. “I do think they are very much in the minority.”
Huot advocates better record keeping.
“The focus will be on obtaining compliance with some reasonable type of regulations,” he said.
Owner Archie DeFlorio, who operates eight Cash for Gold stores in Southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley, said the town of Salem requires record keeping, photographs and mandates a waiting period before disposal of property.
“We have to hold all merchandise for 30 days,” he said.
DeFlorio said other New Hampshire communities have followed Salem’s lead.
“It helps the victim recoup their losses,” he said.
But, he said, some towns have neglected to put regulations with a waiting period in place.
“Naturally, the thief will go there,” he said.
DeFlorio approved of the House panel’s recommendation to set up a commission, saying he would be willing to testify before it or serve.
“I’d be happy to do that,” he said. “I’ve been in this business 34 years.”
Salem police weren’t aware of the effort to change the law.
“If they’re going to change the law, we haven’t been notified by any committee,” Salem Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said.
Patten sees a need for local communities to have input.
“If they’re going to address it, they may want to hear from the cities and towns in New Hampshire most affected by it,” he said. “We’d be happy to provide them with any input and our experiences. We’d be happy to share, but we haven’t heard from any lawmakers.”
Butler said the committee’s recommendation will come before the House in early January.
If approved by the House, the commission proposal would then move to the Senate.