Pierce County moves to reduce retail crime

Sep 17, 2020
Written by wpengine

The Pierce County Council has amended its code regarding pawnbrokers that promises to help reduce retail crime.

It requires customers who sell items to pawnbrokers, pawn shops and secondhand dealers to prove they owned the items with a receipt, according to Jerry Lerum, an organized retail crime investigator for Home Depot who worked with the council on the issue. The council unanimously approved the amendment earlier this week and it was sponsored by Councilman Jim McCune.

Lerum called the amendment “a big first step” in reducing organized retail crime. The amendment goes into effect on November 1, 2020.

Prior to the amendment, criminals have been selling items stolen from stores for a fraction of the item’s sale price without needing to show proof of ownership. This practice has evolved into stealing property from retailers, returning the stolen merchandise for gift cards or store credits and then selling those gift cards/store credits to the same pawnshops. Lerum said. Customers, including some internationally, then obtain the store credits after downloading the information to their phones, he said.

Criminals routinely will sell hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in gift cards and store credits to pawnshops for 30% to 40% of the cards’ value. The card values are then placed on the internet for sale and most are sold internationally, Lerum said.