Oakland takes steps to limit number of pawn shops

December 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Pawn shops: some consider them blight and a magnet for crime. Others, a way to get a loan quickly. The city of Oakland is taking steps to crack down on them.

The basic idea behind any pawnshop is to loan people money. You bring in something you own and give it to the pawnbroker as collateral for the loan.

"Sometimes you get in a struggle and sometimes you need a helping hand and you get your stuff back," shopper Maurice Reliford said.

The pawnbroker, in this case, Easy Money Pawn in Oakland, loans you money against that collateral. When you repay the loan, plus the interest, you get your collateral back. If you don't repay the loan, the pawnbroker keeps the collateral.

"I need to get my things back and I need to know that they're legitimate," shopper TJ Johnson-Williams said.

Easy Money Pawn is one of five licensed brokers in the city of Oakland requiring valid photo ID, a finger print and a signature for all transactions -- all of it legal and legitimate according to California law.

Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente wants to keep it that way.

"Require them to help us make it difficult for criminals," he said.

Gold thefts have forced Oakland to put the brakes on new pawn shops because second hand dealers are ground zero for those looking to unload stolen goods.

"We have seen the connection in the last couple of years between the assaults and robberies," De La Fuente said.

He believes that operations that buy gold on the side are cheating the city of tax revenue and are a danger to the community.

"Even the legitimate pawn shops and legitimate gold merchants want us to do this," De La Fuente said.

Right now, there are more than two dozen pawnshops waiting for license approval, but the Oakland City Council has imposed a moratorium on new pawnshops and second hand buyers of gold until March 2012 -- that's when they plan to unveil new guidelines designed to protect the city and the consumer.

Pawn shops do more than loan money. One customer said that it's also a great place to bargain shop.

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