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Wauwatosa considers 21-day waiting period for used goods

Electronic reporting would be rewarded

June 3, 2011

A city panel's recommended ordinance change seeks to find the balance between protecting crime victims and supporting local businesses.

After discussing for a few months the rules for secondhand dealers who buy and sell items in the city, the Community Development Committee this week recommended having secondhand dealers electronically report to police all items purchased with a value of $50 or greater, then enforcing a 21-day waiting period before the goods can be sold.

Those business owners who insist on turning in cards detailing product information, instead of using electronic reporting, would face a 30-day waiting period, incur a fee and have the responsibility of delivering the paperwork to the police station.

Police had pushed for a 30-day waiting period for all transactions in hopes that more stolen goods would be discovered before they are sold and walk out the door. It often takes theft and burglary victims time to inventory stolen items, and detectives need time to investigate leads, officials said.

However, the 21-day hold for electronic transmissions counts as the longest period instituted by a municipality so far, and provides some incentive to make the process simpler through online reporting, said Alderwoman Jill Organ, committee chairwoman.

The state only requires a seven-day wait for electronic reporting, but municipalities can enforce stricter rules, City Attorney Alan Kesner said.

Alderwoman Linda Nikcevich said she had a difficult time backing a 30-day holding period because these businesses only makes money when they sell what's been taken in. During the holidays, or if an item is seasonal, people don't want to wait that long, she said.

Another nuance of the measure - if a "collection" is purchased in which all parts together have a value of $50 or more, all parts must be reported.

City staff recommended defining "collection" broadly, as any items that one person brings into a store to sell at a one time. If the value of the aggregate sale tops $50 - up from a prior suggested $20 to lessen the burden on businesses - then all the items must be reported.

Alderman Bobby Pantuso provided the lone opposition vote.

Greenfield rescinded its similar ordinance last fall based on complaints by businesses about transaction fees, and low-cost and rarely stolen items such as books, clothing and toys being included in the regulation. That community is looking to make another attempt at an ordinance, which could provide some guidance for Wauwatosa, he said, suggesting a "wait-and-see approach."

Pantuso was outvoted, 6-1. However, the issue will return the committee in two weeks for a second consideration, as is normal policy for ordinances before going to the Common Council for a final vote.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: The Community Development Committee will consider changes to a secondhand dealers ordinance

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

WHEN: 8 p.m. June 14

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