Officials say the number of so-called ‘cash-for-gold’ dealers continues to grow and they’re concerned the businesses are catering to a significant number of thieves.
Efforts are underway to strengthen a law passed just last year to deal with the problem but some coin and jewelry dealers say the proposed changes threaten their livelihood.
Vergennes Representative Diane Lanpher says there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of cash-for-gold businesses.
"We have heard that in Rutland alone, almost overnight, 26 shingles have gone out that,"says Lanpher.
Police say the numbers are growing because many of the dealers are catering to people selling stolen jewelry for cash.
A law passed last year included provisions requiring coin and jewelry dealers to keep better records and hold onto the gold and precious metals they buy for 10 days.
Authorities say many dealers aren’t obeying the law and Lanpher is cosponsoring a bill that would stiffen both the requirements and the penalties.
Under the proposed legislation, cash for gold dealers doing more than $50,000 in business annually would have to be licensed.
Requirements for recording transactions and those governing how payments would also be tightened.
The bill would also extend from 10 days to thirty days the period coin and jewelry dealers must hold on to what they buy.
Lanpher says the changes are designed to help authorities apprehend thieves and recover stolen property.
"It slows down the process," she explains. " It gives them to tools that they need to be able to investigate. The goal of everything is to be able to return the goods to the rightful owner."
Lanpher says the bill may change depending on what coin and jewelry dealers have to say.
Tim Puro owns a downtown Rutland coin and jewelry business.
Puro says he has no problem with most of the proposed changes, but the thirty day waiting period will threaten his business.
"If it were strictly enforced, I wouldn’t be able to stay in business the way I currently do business," says Puro. "It’ll just push business from the legitimate business to people who only pay by cash, don’t keep any records and send it out the next day, people who aren’t going to follow the law."
Puro says holding onto precious metals for 30 days creates cash flow problems and threatens his narrow profit margin in the volatile gold and silver market.
He says he’d like to see law enforcement crack down harder on businesses that don’t follow the law.
He would also like to see a system where dealers are alerted when stolen property is reported to police.
The proposed legislation also includes a change in language that would remove antique dealers from the law’s provisions.
Authorities point out that in many cases people who have had jewelry and valuables stolen have no records or photographs of their belongings, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to locate and reclaim the items.