Secondhand dealers who fail to alert police when they are offered suspected stolen goods for sale could face jail under a proposed law regulating pawnbrokers and cash for gold traders.
The Secondhand Dealers Bill aims to restrict the ability of burglars to sell stolen property in the Cayman Islands.
The bill has been drafted amid growing public concern over a rise in break-ins and home invasions and is likely to be debated at the next session of the Legislative Assembly.
Key elements of the bill include
- New powers for police to inspect pawn shops without a warrant
- Requirement for dealers to alert cops if they are offered property for sale that is believed to be stolen
- Requirement for dealers to record every transaction using surveillance cameras and keep photos of all property acquired, along with details of the seller
- Ban on transactions between secondhand dealers and anyone under 18 or visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Requirement for dealers to obtain “proof of ownership” along with photo ID from anyone selling property worth more than $200.
Dealers who fail to alert police if someone tries to sell them an item on the list would be liable to prosecution and could face a $10,000 fine or two years in jail. Similarly, dealers would be required to alert police if anyone tries to sell them property at a price significantly below its value.
The legislation, combined with increased enforcement at the port, aims to tackle Cayman’s burglary issue from the demand side – cutting off the options for criminals to sell their ill-gotten gains.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said it would help address a spike in property crimes.
“The new law will place additional controls on what has been a too obvious point of disposal in the Cayman Islands – cash for gold and pawn shop establishments,” he told business leaders at a Chamber of Commerce lunch last month.
Both police and secondhand dealers have previously told the Cayman Compass that they already have a strong relationship and have made significant inroads into the problem of stolen goods being sold on island.
The draft law, published in the official government gazette on Friday, seeks to enshrine that relationship in law and create a system of penalties for rogue dealers who fail to comply.
It also creates new “trade officers” in the Department of Commerce and Investment, with the powers of a police constable and responsibility for conducting inspections and seizing records from pawnbrokers when necessary.
Under the bill, police will be required to draw up and circulate a list of stolen property to these trade officers as well as to all secondhand dealers.
The law, if passed, will compel traders to photograph every item purchased and keep a digital record of the name and address of the seller alongside the image.
Anyone selling goods to a secondhand dealer will be required to show ID and fill out paperwork attesting that they are the legal owner or acting for the legal owner of the property.
If the property is worth more than $200, proof of ownership and two types of photo ID will be required, along with a signed statement. Failure to comply would be punishable by a $20,000 fine or three years in prison.
There is also a requirement for dealers to keep any item they have bought for at least 14 days prior to selling it and gives police power to issue a “notice to hold,” instructing dealers not to sell an item for up to a month if it is believed to be stolen.