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April 01. 2013 9:40PM

Londonderry police propose changes to rules for sellers of used goods

LONDONDERRY - With thefts of auto parts and scrap metal on the rise in Londonderry, police are taking a closer look at the town's policies regulating businesses that specialize in the sale of secondhand goods.

According to Londonderry Police Detective Sean Doyle, the process of monitoring local business transactions is extremely time-consuming and isn't very cost effective. After looking into the matter further, police said purchasing a software system from Business Watch International (BWI) would be more efficient.

The system would require all vendors of secondhand goods to keep online records of their merchandise, including photos. Doyle said the police department would provide each business owner with a web camera, though proprietors would be on their own if they wanted to purchase an additional or replacement camera.

During a lengthy discussion Monday evening, Londonderry police officials discussed the legality of having the pawnbrokers report the same way as secondhand dealers.

According to Doyle, local police have already discussed the matter with town prosecutor Kevin Coyle as well as County Attorney Blanchard. He said both agreed the new software follows town and state statutes.

The Salem Police Department recently began using BWI, but Councilor Joe Green said some Londonderry residents still had many concerns on the matter.

"These are important questions: What are the initial costs? Is it cost prohibitive?" Green asked police.

Police officials said startup costs are roughly $3,000 to purchase the software that would be monitoring the town's dozen or so secondhand vendors.

The list of stores includes not only traditional pawnshops, but also jewelry stores selling secondhand items, consignment shops and businesses dealing with sales of scrap metal, and other recyclables.

According to Doyle, the updated ordinance also calls for an increase in licensing fees for applicable businesses.

As it stands now, it costs shop owners $50 for a new business license and $25 for an annual license renewal. Under the new ordinance, it would cost them $250 each year, with those funds to help pay for software costs.

The new ordinance would further shift costs to business owners by enacting a $1 per transaction fee.

Patricia O'Neil, who owns one of the stores that would be affected by the changes, said the changes could cost her around $10,000 and would add further challenges to a small business struggling in an already-strained economy.

"It's just affecting our livelihood," O'Neil told the council.

"Believe me, you wouldn't want to be a criminal and sit with me if you had a box of stolen goods," she added.

Councilor Jim Butler agreed that updates to the ordinance could, in fact, "pose undue burdens on small businesses."

"I think we still have a lot of question on this," Councilor John Farrell said.

The board unanimously agreed to continue the hearing until the May 6 meeting.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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