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New pawn shop ordinance passes in Salem

SALEM - Starting next month, members of the Salem Police Department will be able to track all purchases made at the town's pawn shops with the simple click of a mouse.

During Monday night's selectmen's meeting, the board unanimously approved changes to the town ordinance on how secondhand dealers and pawnbrokers conduct business in town. The changes, which include the installation of Business Watch International software at the local police station, have been in the works for the past several months.

Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten said the program, which costs around $5,000 annually, can track all pawn transactions almost instantly. Patten said the changeover process is going extremely well, and representatives from Business Watch have been helpful in answering any questions that have come up. He said the program is scheduled to become active March 1.

The town's 20 or so pawn shops and secondhand stores are required to renew their licenses by April 1. Last fall town officials unanimously agreed it makes sense to raise the annual licensing fee for pawnshops and increase those fees from $1,000 to $1,250 to pay for the online tracking program.

Patten said police have been in close contact with local merchants to assist them with the changes and address any concerns that might arise.

"We tried to be as fair as possible," he said, noting that he hasn't heard any complaints yet about the new system.

Patten suspects a handful of the town's smaller shops might opt against renewing their business licenses, though he expects the majority to comply with the new process.

Sales of items like office furnishings, used clothing and used automobiles won't be subject to electronic monitoring, police noted, since such items aren't things that are typically taken during residential burglaries. The ordinance will also make an exception for trade-ins for items "of equal or lesser value," such as DVDs.

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