Regional Pawn Data Sharing System Among First in Nation

Mar 15, 2005
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) today introduced a Regional Pawn Sharing Database System that will help recover stolen property and solve crimes in the region.

The database system, funded through a federal grant secured by Congressman James P. Moran (D-Va), connects law enforcement officers to items sold in pawn shops in jurisdictions other than their own. The system is one of the nation’s first.

"The Pawn Database System gives law enforcement a new tool in the fight against crime," Congressman Moran said. "I have been proud to work with COG on this innovative and forward thinking project. The metropolitan Washington region will serve as a national model."

Thieves often steal items in one jurisdiction and then pawn them in a different one. Because detectives and officers typically only have access to items sold to pawn shops in their own jurisdictions, there is a great deal of work involved in comparing lists to track down items. Now, police departments have direct access to purchase lists from pawn shops in neighboring jurisdictions.

The initial pawn sharing database system was developed and tested over two years in the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Alexandria, and Fairfax. Through the auspices of its Police Chiefs Committee, COG will now begin to expand the program by adding police departments from more of its 19 member jurisdictions.

The system has helped police officers return stolen items such as jewelry and computers, and to make an arrest after a database search connected a suspect’s name to nearly 100 items that had been stolen from stores at Pentagon City Mall and pawned in a neighboring jurisdiction.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the program are asking citizens to record serial numbers of items they own or purchase. Reports of stolen items that are accompanied by their serial numbers are much easier for police to track down than those that are not.

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