Eighty-three pawnshops are located within the city of Dallas, and burglars are familiar with their locations. A recent Police Department pawnshop initiative targeted thieves trying to sell their stolen goods at these businesses, and the result in the northeast police division was nothing to shrug about — 51 arrests and 185 citations.

Is a pawnshop initiative what it sounds like — going from pawnshop to pawnshop and looking for stolen goods?

No, that’s the not the way we did it. The property recovery squad is based downtown, and they keep a working relationship with the pawnshops and review things to see what is being pawned. They do routine inspections, but they have to have probable cause to enter. These are licensed businesses owned by legitimate people. Not all pawnshops were targeted; they just picked some in each division. We were working around two of them, one in the northern sector and one in the southern. We had assigned uniform and plain-clothes officers to look at the people who were coming into pawnshops and identify whether it was some of our known burglars, or if they were carrying things we knew had been stolen recently, and also to run license plates and watch for suspicious activities around the shop. If you see the same guy come back four or five times that day, that will give you a clue something’s not right. We had to have probable cause to stop anybody. We weren’t there checking regular customers or interfering with business.

Are pawnshop initiatives common, or was this spurred by recent criminal activity?

Not by recent criminal activity, but the department is looking for different ways to deter and combat crime. When we have burglaries, you’ve got property that’s got to go somewhere, and these people typically take it to pawnshops. A lot of them turn it in and sell it for drug money.

What would officers generally do once they arrived at a pawnshop?

The plain-clothes officers would watch from outside and then notify the uniformed officers of people who needed to be stopped and checked away from the locations. Based on the things that the undercover officers noticed, the uniformed officers would check people and see if they were wanted, what they had pawned, and if the property they had pawned was stolen. Now obviously, if we had something that needed to be handled right there at the scene, we would. We had four stolen cars show up — they weren’t there to pawn them; they were just in them — and we took them into custody immediately.

Were the pawnshop owners aware of what was happening?

I think some of them had an idea, but no, they weren’t in on it. The police department has a pretty good work relationship with the pawnshops, and we have to. A lot of times, the owners are notifying us when they get stolen items as well.

So 51 people were arrested for pawning stolen items?

During this, we had 415 traffic stops, and the charges ranged anywhere from traffic citations to warrants for robbery, assault on a public servant, injury to a child, narcotics, stolen cars; so obviously there was a wide range of charges. They may not have had anything that was stolen, but they had warrants. Five offenses were cleared, meaning we were actually able to recover the property and identify the burglar and clear the offense. And we had eight incidents of property being recovered.

Were any prized belongings reunited with their thankful owners?

Later on, through the investigation, they were. We like when we can call the owners to the station and give them their property back.


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