LONDONDERRY — With the Town Council’s blessings, local police will soon work closely with area secondhand dealers and pawnbrokers to ensure stolen items are returned to their rightful owners.
On June 2 the council unanimously approved amendments to a town ordinance regulating businesses that sell used items.
While Londonderry has had its ordinance on the books since 2008, the updated version will assist staff at seven businesses in town in the process of automatically entering items and the sellers’ identities into an electronic database.
The process is similar, though not identical, to the one being used successfully by the Salem Police Department, said local law officials.
Londonderry police Chief Bill Hart said the changes are the result of months of hard work on the part of Detective Sean Doyle and Lt. Tim Jones.
Doyle said the updates were written in response to a spate of home burglaries in town in recent years. From July through December last year, there were 30 home burglaries in Londonderry, and police said the town has seen an average of 72 residential burglaries per year in recent history.
“Over the past two years we’ve seen a sharp increase in these crimes,” Doyle said. “It appears to be related to the rise of heroin and opiate addiction: these criminals are looking for property to fuel their habit. Having these changes on the books will help us to help our residents and our businesses.”Londonderry police said they plan to work with New England State Police Information Network (NESPIN) to help with information sharing with local merchants.
Doyle said the service is provided to shopkeepers at no charge.“We think this process will save the town time and money, while increasing efficiency,” he said. “It will make the process easy on our businesses as well.”While Londonderry state representative Al Baldasaro expressed concern about the potential for liability, Londonderry police said that’s not likely to happen in Londonderry.Hart said that while other area police departments have ran into some trouble working with third-party information companies and charging merchants fees for each transaction, Londonderry police will only be sharing information with fellow law enforcement officials and aren’t charging any such fees.“We’re providing (store owners) with software and with a camera,” Hart said, noting that both the county attorney’s office and Londonderry police Prosecutor Kevin Coyle had examined the town’s updated ordinance and saw no potential for legal conflicts.Doyle said the majority of communities with second hand dealers use NESPIN for reporting services, though Manchester uses Leads Online, a third-party information database of pawn shops.
Roger Fillio, who owns a small shop in town, expressed concern about being personally held liable for unknowingly having stolen goods onsite, or if he inadvertently fails to enter every transaction into the system.
“What if I push ‘send’ and it doesn’t get to you,” Fillio asked police. “What happens then? Am I breaking the law?”
“None of our businesses want to sell stolen articles, but it happens,” Doyle told him, noting that the new software in question would automatically send information to the police. “We’re not looking to charge businesses with crimes they didn’t commit.”Local police noted that citizens can also do their part to avoid being victimized. Doyle urged residents to keep track of things like serial numbers on their televisions, computers and cameras, and keep photographs of valuable jewelry: preferably hard copies rather than computer files, since computers are often stolen during a home burglary.