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County close to an OK on gold buyer law

POSTED: January 19, 2012 6:14 p.m.

Local gold buyers will have to hold on to their purchases a little while longer, if a proposed ordinance goes through.

Effingham County commissioners have approved the first reading of an ordinance that will require gold buyers to hold their purchases for 30 days. Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie had asked for the ordinance.

“Basically, now they can get the product and sell it as soon as they get it,” said county clerk Patrice Crawley. “This ordinance will make them hold it for a length of time.”

Doing so, law enforcement officials believe, will allow them to see if the gold and silver items brought to the precious metals dealers have not been reported as stolen.

“I think we need to move forward with it,” said Commissioner Steve Mason. “This will treat them more like pawn shops.”

Mason said what is happening is gold items are brought to the dealers, sold and melted down almost immediately.

“They think there have been incidences of people stealing jewelry, taking it directly to the gold dealer, they melt it down that day and, of course, there’s no way to identify it after that,” he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, law enforcement officers will be able to review buyers’ logs to see if they have bought any stolen items. Precious metals dealers will have to hold on to what they have bought for 30 days and have to file a report with the sheriff within 24 hours of making a purchase of precious metals or goods made from precious metals.

Commissioner Vera Jones asked if the local gold dealers had been made aware of the potential ordinance or if they had been asked for input.

If commissioners approve the ordinance at their next meeting, there will be a registration process for local precious metals dealers.

The proposed annual fee for registration is $25.

Jones, who also is a homebuilder, said copper thieves also have continued to strike.

“The problem we’re having with the copper regularly is they’re cutting it out of the houses and they’re taking it to South Carolina,” she said.

Sheriff McDuffie first approached the commissioners at their December meeting about the precious metals ordinance, as a response to a rash of burglaries.

“We have recovered very little of the jewelry that’s been stolen,” he said. “It’s killing us.”

The ECSO investigated 47 burglaries in November and 14 of them were carried out by three burglars, McDuffie told commissioners.

Upon approval of the second reading of the proposed ordinance, the law will go into effect immediately and the sheriff’s office will begin enforcement within 30 days.

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