The Kalispell Police Department wants to change city laws to require every pawn shop to submit inventory reports to the city electronically. It is an effort to track thieves who try to sell stolen property.
The current city ordinance only requires shops submit handwritten records. Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset says he won’t force pawn shops to do that, because it is not efficient. Instead, he is pushing for the mandated use of an online system.
First National Pawn Shop is the only pawn shop in Kalispell that voluntarily submits its inventory records to police electronically.
“Back in the day, pawn shops almost had a dark connection to a criminal element, and we want to make sure people know that we don't want to have any part of that. We want to be a legal operation," said First National Pawn employee Mike Ovik.
The shop started using the program Leads Online two years ago when the police started using it.
Nasset says he has proof that it works.
"We've recovered guns, we've recovered jewelry and many other items. We've identified suspects with Leads Online, so we figured this is a valuable tool. Now, we're going forward, take the next step and approach council with an ordinance that would actually mandate it," said Nasset.
Nasset says the city doesn’t have time to go through handwritten receipts, which pawn shops are required to submit daily.
"We're not, on a daily basis, requiring them to submit their reports, just because it wouldn't make any sense. We don't have the man hours to do anything with it," Nasset said.
Nasset wants a new ordinance that would mandate the use of the electronic system. Some aren’t happy about it.
One pawn shop owner, who wanted to remain anonymous, says she isn’t required to submit any documents right now. She also tells NBC Montana that she is against the proposed ordinance because it would make more work for her.
Ovik at First National Pawn explains it doesn’t take much time to get a day's worth of reports in.
“We click a few buttons on the computer and it probably only takes a matter of minutes," he said.
Nasset says it is not about making things more difficult, but better protecting victims of theft.
"We feel bad because we often tell the victims ‘Go search for your stuff at the pawn shops,’ because we don't have the resources to do that. This is going to help us provide a better service to them," Nasset said.
Nasset plans to address the city council with his proposed ordinance next week. He also hopes it can be used as a model for the entire county.