WILKES-BARRE – A database run by the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office that has been instrumental in hundreds of arrests will now be extended into Lackawanna County.
The Precious Metals and Second Hand Goods Database, which operates in Luzerne and Carbon counties, began operation in Lackawanna County last week.
Monroe County will jump on board soon, District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said.
The database keeps track of precious metals and second-hand items, such as cameras or tools, sold in local pawn shops.
If that item is reported stolen, police departments and the district attorney’s office can access the database to see who sold the item, which typically leads to an arrest.
Database led to arrest
Including an arrest in Hazleton city on July 1 where police charged 19-year-old city resident Joseph Genetti with receiving stolen property after pawning jewelry removed from a city residence.
Police said the jewelry was identified through the database after the items were pawned at John’s Pawn Shop on Alter Street over a several-month period.
“It’s led to many charges (being filed) and has helped us locate and verify stolen items,” said county Detective Charles Balogh, who implemented the database in 2008 under then-District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll. “It’s very beneficial.”
Balogh said about 200 entries are put into the system every week, monitored by 235 law enforcement agencies.
Balogh said the old way the process would work is that an individual would sell an item to a local pawn shop. They would provide their identification, signature and amount of money paid out, and that information would be mailed to the district attorney’s office.
Balogh said soon, filing cabinets were piling up, as records are kept for a two-year period.
At an average of 1,000 transactions a week, Balogh believed there could be a better way – a more streamlined way.
Pawn shops cooperating
And so, the online database was born. A test run worked out better than expected and the system became priceless.
“It’s a nice system. It can help us identify a unique piece of jewelry through a detailed description,” Salavantis said. “As long as pawn shops are doing their job, we can have instant access to those items.”
Balogh said the system was the driving force behind an arrest in a recent burglary ring in Dunmore, and has helped make recent arrests in West Pittston and Hazleton.
“For most people, items taken in a burglary have no value, they are priceless and sentimental pieces,” Salavantis said. “It means everything when we can provide that piece back to a victim. It means the world to them.”
Balogh said most items taken from peoples homes and sold at pawn shops are from trusted individuals, such as those doing work painting, installing carpets, contractors, housekeepers and others.
Items are taken, sold at pawn shops and identification of that person and the item they sold immediately go into the database.
More counties, more effective
Now that several other counties are getting on board with Luzerne County’s database, Salavantis said enforcement will be easier.
“Criminals have no boundaries. Now, we’ll be able to track them across multi-county jurisdictions,” Salavantis said.
Balogh added he hopes some day to have every county in Pennsylvania participate in the database so that the entire state can benefit from it’s impact.
Balogh said currently 92 pawn shops participate in using the database, and some municipalities, including Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Hanover Township, have enacted ordinances that require businesses in municipalities to participate in the database.
If a vendor fails to participate in providing information to the District Attorney’s Office, they could be charged with a misdemeanor and lose their license for five years.
Though, Balogh said, vendors can also be victims in the case because they are losing merchandise and income.