It is no secret that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. In a country plagued by poverty, the unfortunate truth is that house break-ins and robberies happen almost every day. It may seem that for criminals the quickest way to get cash from stolen items is to pawn them at the nearest pawn shop.
Fortunately, not. Pawnshops and pawnbrokers are extremely ethical and legitimate businesses that make it their priority to deny any stolen merchandise.
Running a legitimate business is essential to pawnshops and the customers that engage with them. They mostly rely on repeat business from the community that they serve, through word of mouth and referrals. Through co-operating with local police and following various laws that govern this industry, pawnbrokers make every effort to keep stolen goods out of their shop.
If you have ever pawned anything, youll know that you have to present identification before you even proceed with any type of transaction. This is one of the methods that pawnbrokers use to discourages thieves.
The negotiations and agreements made between the pawnshop and the customer are only legal if the customer is the rightful owner of the item. If a pawnshop accepts items without following the necessary steps to ensure it is not stolen and the owner of the item or police find it, the pawnshop is required by law to return it without compensation, no matter how much the pawnshop paid for it.
Identifying stolen goods
It becomes difficult to establish with 100% certainty if an item has been stolen or not, however, there are precautions that all pawnshops take to ensure the person pawning the item is the rightful owner.
The following security procedures are adhered to, to prevent stolen goods from being accepted.
- Identification: The first step involved is asking for the persons name, address, and identification.
- The photo from the I.D document should match the person pawning the item. If the person is reluctant to provide this information, it is a red flag that the item may be stolen.
- Affidavit: Most pawnshops require an ownership affidavit which the seller signs accepting under oath that he/she is the rightful owner of the item. Unfortunately, not a foolproof way to ensure ownership,
but it does help.
- Examining the Item: A close look and appraisal of an item is another way to determine if an item has been stolen.
Often there will be small clues that are dead giveaways that the item in question is something to walk away from.
- The intuition of staff: pawnbrokers often rely a lot on common sense as well as the appearance of the seller. In some cases, people don't always notice right away that an item has been stolen, or often fails
to report such crimes to the police making it difficult to track stolen items. In such cases, pawnshop owners need different ways of identifying stolen goods.Pawnbrokers will often ask a series of questions to the seller to get a sense if the item has been stolen or not.
These questions would address the following scenarios:
- Suspicious activity of the seller
- Hesitance to produce ID
- Age – Do they look too young to be able to afford such an item?
- How much does the seller know about the item in question?
- Has the serial number been tampered with?
Stolen Items database
Pawnshops around the country make use of a stolen item database. The information on items brought into pawnshops gets captured in the database and is then available to law enforcement.
The information captured into the database depends on serial numbers, this is why pawnshops require serial numbers from items brought in.
The South African Police Department appeals to all South Africans to make a list of all the appliances in your home with their respective serial numbers.
In the unfortunate case that you have fallen victim to a house robbery, this will assist police officers and pawnbrokers in identifying stolen items within the
database and hopefully being able to return them to their rightful owner.
It is important to note that pawnshops are not obligated to make an offer on an item that has been brought it, even if there is nothing listed in the database. It only makes business sense to accept items that will sell.
In addition to the above measures, pawnshops also have CCTV cameras throughout their shops and at their cashier windows to record every transaction.
Pawnshops and pawnbrokers take the pawning of stolen items incredibly seriously. Rigorous checks and procedures are followed to ensure that no stolen item is accepted at their shop.
So the next time you
browse around at your local pawn shop you can rest assured knowing that stolen goods are not