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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Police might leave stone age on pawnshop tracking

Cedar Rapids police are looking into paying for an online database that will make it easier to track items at pawn shops.

Before the flood, the Cedar Rapids Police Department was looking at using LeadsOnline, an Internet service that collects information from pawn shops and allows police to search a database for stolen items or evidence in an investigation.

It’s not that police here don’t already pay attention to pawnshop transactions. But their process is mind-numbingly archaic.

Whenever someone hands over a Rolex, or whatever, at one of Cedar Rapids’ four pawn shops, the store must record a description of the property and the identity of the customer on a slip that it gives to police. “We go pick them up, bring them to crime analysis, and then they get entered in,” said Capt. Bernie Walther.

When cops got fed up with that job, the city instituted a $1 fee for each item in 2008, to cover the cost of sending officers to pick up the slips and paying someone to type the items into the system.

But over the next few weeks, police will investigate in earnest whether it will be better to pay a private company to collect the information from pawn shops and maintain the database.

The New York and Los Angeles Police Departments already use LeadsOnline, as do 39 agencies in Illinois.

The Dubuque Police Department just became one of the few Iowa law enforcement agencies to sign up for the service. “Our last pawnshop just signed on yesterday,” Lt. Scott Baxter said.

Dubuque police have already recovered some stolen tools and snowboards using the service. In Grinnell, police have used the service to recover $20,000 in stolen property.

It costs Dubuque $5,900 per year, a fee the city has paid with seized drug money, Baxter said.

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Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Public Safety

One Response

  1. lobo says:

    well its about time. i suggested they make their own website here in Cr which would be cheaper. i made that suggestion last year, its good to see they are finally coming into the year 2001

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