Proposed law in city of Houston could help crack down on thieves who sell stolen gold, silver

January 30, 2013 3:55:17 PM PST
The next time you buy or sell your gold or silver, you may be photographed and fingerprinted. There are strict new rules the city is considering to cut down on theft.

The proposed changes are comparable to how scrap metal dealers currently do business -- a lot of regulation in hopes of keeping criminals from making money.

The idea is to deter criminals from stealing and re-selling gold, silver and other precious metals.

If passed, this new law will include significant changes for both buyers and sellers.

For decades, Rex Solomon has been at the forefront of his industry as president of Houston Jewelry in west Houston.

"On a slow day, it's 10 to 15 people," he said. "On a busy day, we've had as high as 200."

Now is no different. Anyone who wants to sell him gold is thoroughly examined and documented. But for Solomon and other second-hand dealers, the rules might soon change.

"We have some crooks out there that are violating the system on a regular basis, trying to sell gold that they're stealing," Houston Mayor Pro Tem Ed Gonzalez said. "So, we're trying to protect the public and give the police the tools they need to do this."

Houston Police Department's Precious Metals Unit, with some city support, want dealers like Solomon to take a sellers' thumbprints, snap photos of the seller and the physical jewelry, file daily reports electronically -- not just on paper -- and hold records for three years rather than two.

"It just kind of connects the dots for a lot of officers in the investigations to make it a lot easier," HPD Officer Todd Harris said.

With the value of precious metals like gold and silver soaring over the last 10 years, police say taking tougher measures helps them more easily identify stolen property and return it to the rightful owner.

Solomon already started fingerprinting and storing electronic records at his store, and says it's nabbed two crooks already. His next step: installing cameras.

"What we'll do is mount a web cam like this right there and when they're doing the driver's license, we'll say 'smile,' and go click," he said.

If the law passes, failure to comply could result in a citation. City Council votes on the changes next week.
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