15.210 Investigating Property Held by a Pawnshop or Used-Goods Store
Effective Date: 7/18/2012
This policy applies to any investigation in which a licensed pawnshop or reseller of used goods is in possession of property believed to be reported lost or stolen. For the purposes of this policy, the term “pawnshop” will also include used-goods stores.
1. Patrol Officers Will Conduct the Initial Investigation
When patrol officers are contacted by a victim who claims their stolen property is being held by a pawnshop, officers will conduct the initial investigation.
See 15.210- PRO 1 - Investigation of Stolen Property Held by a Pawnshop.
2. Pawnshop and Appropriate Detective Units Conduct Follow-up
The Pawnshop Unit will review the GO reports and assign them to detectives of either the Pawnshop Unit or Precinct Detective Units for follow-up.
If the original theft of the property has already been assigned to a follow-up detective, the pawnshop case will also be assigned to that detective.
For example: If the property was previously reported stolen in a robbery case, and the robbery case was assigned to a robbery detective, the pawnshop case will be investigated by the robbery detective as well.
3. Officers Have the Right to Enter a Pawnshop to Inspect Property for the
Purpose of Detecting Stolen Property
Officers will not allow victims to accompany them into a pawnshop for inspection of property. Victims will not be sent to a specific pawnshop with the purpose of identifying property known to be held there without the approval of a lieutenant.
4. An Officer May Place a “Police Hold” on Suspected Stolen Property Held by a Pawnshop
A police hold on pawnshop property compels the business to take certain actions to ensure that the property is retained and not altered, per SMC 6.288.090 Police Seizures—Police Holds—Duties and Obligations.
See 15.210-TSK-1A Placing a Police Hold on Property Held by a Pawnshop.
5. Officer May Seize the Property as Evidence
Property shall only be seized from a pawn shop if:
- The officer has probable cause to believe the property is lost or stolen
- There is an ongoing investigation, by patrol or follow-up detectives
- The officer can articulate reasons why he/she believes the article will not be kept by the pawnshop in accordance with a Police Hold
See DP&P 7.020 - Evidence, Private Property Collection & Release for information on seizing private property as evidence.
6. Officers Cannot Return Stolen or Lost Property to the Owner
Officers cannot seize lost or stolen property from a pawnshop and return it to the owner. If ownership is not adjudicated in a criminal trial, the determination of ownership becomes a civil matter.
7. Assigned Follow-Up Detectives are Responsible for Tracking and
Maintaining Police Investigatory Holds
8. Follow-up Detectives are Responsible for Releasing Any Seized Property or
When seized or held property is no longer needed for investigation or prosecution, absent a court order, follow-up detectives will release the property to the pawnshop.
See 15.210-TSK-1B Releasing a Police Hold on Property Held by a Pawnshop
Refer to DP&P 7.020- Evidence, Private Property Collection & Release for information on releasing seized property from evidence.
9. The Owner of the Property Must Claim Their Property From the Pawnshop
After the property has been released from police hold or evidence, the owner must claim the property from the pawnshop. The pawnshop may agree to release the property to the owner, but is not legally obligated to do so without a court order. The owner may have to initiate a civil action against the pawnshop to reclaim the property.
Should any conflict arise in the return of the above-listed Property, the Owner may pursue civil action in accordance with RCW 19.60.062.
15.210-PRO-1-Investigation of Stolen Property Held by a Pawnshop
When an officer receives a complaint of stolen property posted for sale in a pawnshop:
1. Determines if the victim has filed a General Offense
(GO) Report for the initial theft offense:
a. If the theft occurred inside the city limits and has not been reported, completes a GO report.
b. If the theft occurred outside of city limits, completes a GO report with a new case number. References the agency of jurisdiction’s case number, if known.
c. If a GO report has already been filed, completes a Supplemental Report using the original GO number and includes all current information.
2. Includes in the report a complete description of the property, including model/serial numbers and unique markings. Also includes information describing why the victim believes that the property belongs to them.
3. Includes copies of any supporting documentation, such as photographs or receipts.
4. Explains to the victim that the report will be forwarded to the Precinct Detective and Pawnshop Units, who will conduct the follow-up investigation.
5. After ending contact with the victim, attempts to locate the property, if possible.
a. If the property is located in a pawnshop, either:
i. Places a Police Hold on the property (see
DP&P 15.210 TSK 1A).
ii. Seizes the property as evidence (see DP&P
6. If property in a pawnshop is placed on police hold, records this information in the GO or supplemental report.
7. Forwards the report to the Precinct Detective and
8. Reviews reports concerning pawnshop investigations.
8a. Reviews any Police Holds and seizures of property as evidence.
9. If a case will not be assigned for follow up:
9a. Releases any Police Holds on property (15.210- TSK 1B).
9b. Releases any seized property from evidence
(see DP&P 7.020).
10. Assigns cases to Pawnshop detectives
10a. Or forwards report to appropriate Precinct
Detective unit or follow-up detective.
11. Tracks and maintains Police Holds placed on
Pawnshop property as necessary.
12. Releases Police Holds (15.210- TSK 1B) and seized property from evidence (see DP&P 7.020) when it is no longer needed for the investigation.
15.210-TSK-1A-Placing a Police Hold on Property Held by a Pawnshop
In order to place a Police Hold on property held by a pawnshop or used goods store, the
1. Places a verbal hold on the property:
1a. Explains to the pawnshop owner that the property is suspected
to be lost or stolen.
1b. Tells the pawnshop representative to place the property under a
Police Hold in accordance with SMC 6.288 – Used Goods Dealers.
1c. Documents the verbal request for Police Hold in a Department
GO or supplemental report.
2. Gives written notice of Police Hold on the property within 10 business days of the verbal request for hold:
2a. Completes the Pawnshop Hold/Release Form (form 23.2).
2b. Sends a copy of the Pawnshop Hold/Release Form to the pawnshop.
2c. Documents the written notice of Police hold on a Department
GO or supplemental report.
2d. Forwards the original Pawnshop Hold/Release Form to Data.
15.210-TSK-1B-Releasing a Police Hold on Property Held by a Pawnshop
As soon as an investigation is complete, or will not be further investigated, any “held”
property must be released by the detective:
1. If the owner of the property is known, completes the Pawnshop Release
Letter (form 23.3) and sends a copy to the property owner.
2. Completes the Pawnshop Hold/Release (form 23.2) and sends a copy to the pawnshop representative.
3. Completes a Supplemental report documenting these actions and
forwards copies of the above forms to Data.