County law enforcement and anti-drug advocates said a Suffolk bill requiring that pawnshop workers photograph sellers' identifications and products would reduce money from stolen goods that helps fuel the Long Island heroin epidemic.
The bill, proposed and sponsored by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, is aimed at stopping the sale of stolen items. Keriann Kelly, major crime bureau chief with the Suffolk district attorney, said there has been a rapid increase in burglaries and home invasions, largely committed by pill and heroin addicts.
The bill was among several items considered at Tuesday night's meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge. Legislators were expected to consider appointing Barry Paul, Bellone's director of performance management, as the new county treasurer and firefighters objected to a bill legalizing sparkler fireworks.
Supporters of the pawnshop bill, included William Madigan, Suffolk police chief of detectives, who told the legislature, "We need to stop the funding of the heroin epidemic. . . . This will help."
The bill goes to legislative committees next month.
No pawnshop owner or opponents testified. At a previous meeting, they raised concerns the bill would infringe on a legal business and scare away legitimate sellers. Many sellers are residents looking to sell diamond rings after a divorce or raise money to pay for a child's tuition, store owners testified.
Supporter Linda Ventura, of Kings Park, said her son was addicted to heroin and stole family jewelry to fuel his drug habit. He died of a heroin overdose in 2012. "We need more obstacles put in place," she said.
"We don't want businesses with the stamp of approval from Suffolk County fueling the opioid epidemic," said Tim Sini, deputy county executive.
Under existing county law, sellers have to present an identification with a name and address. It does not have to be government issued or have a photograph on it. Stores then enter a written description of the item into a database accessible by Suffolk and Nassau police. Madigan said those descriptions are often vague.
The bill would require a photograph of the government-issued photo identification and a photograph of the pawned item before a worker would put the images in a police database.
The administration's original bill would have required a photograph of the seller at the store, but the administration compromised by removing that requirement, said Tim Sini, a deputy county executive.
Pawn store owners and their lobbyist, Mark Kriss of Albany, could not be reached for comment.The bill adds gift cards to items that would be tracked. It also prohibits deleting information from electronic items for about 21 days.
It also requires stores to keep records for 7 years, from three years existing.
Two dozen uniformed firefighters attended the meeting in opposition to a bill legalizing the sale of sparklers around the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve. Several shared concerns on possible burns, transporting fireworks and storage. Representatives of fireworks companies, which back the bill, told legislators it would legalize a product already commonly used.