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Law restricts traveling jewelry dealers

A new state law will essentially end the practice of traveling jewelry dealers–to the delight of local law enforcement officials and business owners.

Traveling vendors had become more prevalent the past few years as gold prices increased, and the businesses became a target for those selling stolen property.

The new law, which went into effect Thursday, requires dealers of precious metals and stones–excluding merchants and pawnbrokers already licensed with the state–to maintain a permanent place of business anywhere they would conduct transactions.

The law also requires stricter recording and reporting of transactions.

Pawn shops, which are overseen by the state’s banking commission, are required to keep exhaustive records of items they purchase, and the items must be kept for 21 days before they can be resold.

“They work very well with us on recovering stolen property,” Clanton Police Chief Stilwell said.

Laws pertaining to traveling vendors had lagged behind, making it difficult for police to track down stolen property.

Stilwell said he would have to commit an officer to one or two hours a day to visiting the merchants and comparing their supply to the daily reports they turned in. And if an item bought by the traveling vendors was later reported stolen, the vendors were usually long gone, off to the next state.

“Once they’re gone, I can’t drive to Indiana or New York to look for stolen property,” Stilwell said.

The presence of the vendors also wasn’t particularly beneficial to the city or county. Vendors were required to buy a $50 license, compared to the $1,000 or more the average pawn shop pays each year in licensing.

One local pawn shop manager said the situation just wasn’t fair.

“I welcome any competition as long as it’s a level playing field,” said Roy Binkerd of Advance Pawn Shop in downtown Clanton. “This [new law] makes it much more of a level playing field.”

Vendors are now required to buy a $150 license ($100 for the state and $50 for the county), on top of a city’s standard business license.

Binkerd said his business was put at a disadvantage because traveling vendors weren’t required to buy the same type of licenses and keep bought merchandise for a certain amount of time.

Advance employees went so far as to protest the last gold buyers that came through, setting up outside near the traveling show with signs encouraging customers to support local businesses.