The Suburbanite
  • Find your stolen stuff at flea market, gold-buy businesses

  • Looking for your stolen goods? Police in Stark Co. recommend checking out area flea markets or gold-buy businesses.

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  • When a suspect told Canton police he and friends had sold off jewelry, gaming systems and guns they’d stolen from area homes, Detective Bill Adams didn’t end his investigation with the arrests.
    Adams sought to return the stolen goods to their rightful owners.
    The man told him to go to gold-exchange businesses in Plain Township and the Belden Village area. The suspect told detectives that he had needed the money fast to fuel his heroin addiction and, to get rid of the stolen goods in a hurry, the group planned to sell them in Lake Township, Adams said.
    “The reason they went to the gold places was because (those) were open an hour before the Hartville Flea Market. They knew they could get more money at the flea market, but the gold places were already open and they didn’t want to wait,” said Adams, who recovered a majority of the stolen items.
    Not every burglar is computer-savvy enough to sell his newly acquired iPads, cellphones or flat-screen TVs on Craigslist.
    Stark County sheriff’s deputies find stolen goods at the flea market in Hartville “on a semi-routine basis,” said Lt. Lou Darrow.
    “Over the summer, we found a large collection of model trains that had been stolen,” he said. “The owner went to the flea market and started looking around.” He saw his own collection. “He called us and stood back until we arrived.”
    The Hartville Marketplace & Flea Market, where the summertime vendor population can swell to 700, has posted rules prohibiting certain items. A sign says “management strongly enforces our zero tolerance policy prohibiting the sale of illegal or counterfeit merchandise.”
    That doesn’t mean vendors don’t sell stolen stuff.
    “There’s really no way for us to know what people are selling or whether it’s stolen,” said Bruce Blanke, outdoor manager.
    “We keep track of counterfeit merchandise because we have things to look for that would indicate a piece of merchandise is counterfeit. But in the summertime, there are hundreds and hundreds of vendors out there. There’s no way of knowing the origin of everything they’re selling.”
    The flea market is open year-round, but it fills up once the weather warms up.
    If police or the owner of the stolen goods can provide a photograph or a description of what’s been taken, “Of course we’ll keep an eye out for it. We’ll physically walk around to see if we can identify something that someone’s looking for,” Blanke said.
    If police or crime victims also can provide suspects’ descriptions, “We can make an effort to spot something or somebody out there,” he said.
    Uniontown police also have found stolen goods at the flea market.
    Page 2 of 3 - “There are vendors that’ll buy just about anything if the price is right. There are no requirements (for them) to check if it’s stolen or not stolen,” said Capt. David Brown. “Anybody can set up shop, pay their weekend fee and open up a table.”
    Uniontown police patrol the property daily, although most of their calls involve vendors’ feuds over “territory” or an argument over fees, he said.
    A visit to the flea market typically depends on what was stolen.
    When a burglary involves jewelry, police typically check local pawn and gold-buy shops.
    Brown said that between Green, Jackson Township and Akron, “There are about 30 or 40.”
    “A lot of these gold-buy places, most of them don’t communicate or they aren’t on the network with other larger legitimate businesses,” he said.
    The larger, more reputable stores maintain a database, communicate with one another and with police, Brown said, adding that the smaller ones are typically independent businesses, places more likely to buy — knowingly or not — stolen property.
    “A majority of the gold shops are required to register their sales with law enforcement,” he said. “There’s a sales receipt, you’re required to have an Ohio driver’s license or ID in order to sell at those locations. That’s the state law. All of the Akron (gold-buy) businesses are required to register, so we can see who bought and sold what. If you walk in with $5,000 in jewelry, they’re going to have a record of whose ID was used to buy and sell.
    “The smaller fly-by-nights, they don’t do that.”
    And the state doesn’t enforce regulation.
    “(The state) doesn’t have the funding or the people to do that.”
    Darrow said crime victims and his deputies have found stolen property at local gold-exchange places and the pawn shops, but the items aren’t always easy to recover.
    Once a crime victim positively identifies his or her stolen belongings, deputies discuss with the business owner how to get the items returned to the owner.
    “We can’t make (the shops) give it back because, obviously, they are out money, too,” Darrow said.
    The victim could buy back his or her own stolen property, or hope for an arrest. With a conviction, a judge could order the burglar to pay restitution.
    “Sometimes the insurance company will reimburse the owner,” Darrow said.
    Hartville Coin & Jewelry owner Rick Frost, whose precious-metals business is one of the biggest buyers of coins and jewelry in the state, said he and his employees work with police, crime victims and even the insurance companies. They address situations on an individual basis, whether it’s a random burglary or a teen who stole from his parents.
    Page 3 of 3 - “We do everything we can to help,” he said.
    The store maintains a list of people from whom not to buy.
    “If something’s not right, we don’t want it,” Frost said. “We have the right to say no.”

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