Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Cracking Down on “Cash for Gold”
With the price of gold at a record high and many businesses in the area advertising “WE BUY GOLD”, there are many local residents who decide to dispose of their unwanted jewelry by trading it for cash. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, as long as the seller is the legitimate owner of the jewelry in question. Unfortunately, the easy liquidation of gold items into currency has made the theft of these valuables a tempting and profitable enterprise.
City police detectives are currently working several burglary cases where the thieves pilfered valuables from bedroom drawers and jewelry boxes. While fingerprints and other physical evidence can often lead to a solid suspect, tracking and recovering the stolen property is sometimes near impossible.
Some of the blame for that difficulty rests on the gold buyers who often don’t know or don’t care that they are purchasing somebody’s stolen jewelry. Once lost in the muddle of an undocumented transaction, vital evidence that could be used to help prosecute an offender is melted down and gone forever.
There are many reputable precious metals dealers in Fredericksburg who conduct business in accordance with state and local codes, but there are many others who skirt the law to the detriment of all of us. There are several requirements that dealers must meet in order to operate legally. To be sure that you are getting an honest exchange on the sale of your jewelry, you should only do business with dealers who can prove they are in compliance with the law.
• All business owners in Fredericksburg must have a valid business license issued by the City’s Commissioner of the Revenue.
• All precious metals dealers must have a certificate from the State Office of Consumer Affairs, indicating that all scales are proper and accurate.
• All precious metals dealers must have a valid permit issued by the Police Department.
In addition to holding the proper licenses and certifications, a precious metals dealer must by law maintain an “accurate and legible record of each purchase” for 24 months, and that accurate record must include a full description of the item(s) purchased and complete information concerning the identity of the seller. (Code of Virginia 15.2-1114, 54.1-4100, 54.1-4111 and Fredericksburg City Code 22-81 through 22-92 provide the authority to regulate dealers in precious metals.)
When a stolen item is found in the possession of a gold dealer or pawn shop, the adherence to strict record-keeping is critical to connecting the theft of your stolen heirloom to the bad guy who hocked it to pay for his expensive addiction. Only do business with dealers who maintain these high standards; by doing so, you help protect victims from larceny and fraud.
The owners of valuable jewelry can also take several steps to protect their property and increase the chance of getting it back should it be stolen.
1. Keep a record of all jewelry purchases, including receipts and appraisal.
2. Photograph all pieces and file each photo with a detailed written description of the item, including jeweler’s marks and engravings.
3. Itemize all jewelry and include on your homeowner’s insurance policy.
To combat the increase in unregulated “cash for gold” operations, the Police Department will be carrying out unannounced inspections of dealers who are suspected of ignoring the laws pertaining to this business, with the object of verifying records and licensure. Detectives may also conduct undercover sales by posing as customers wishing to unload jewelry. Dealers who are operating outside the law face a Class 2 misdemeanor charge for the first offense, while a second or subsequent offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor and conviction will result in the mandatory forfeiture of their business license.