Bloomington Pawn Shops To Gather Customer Information

Changes to a city ordinance require pawn shops to submit transaction records and customer information to an online database agency.

tom cat

Photo: Lacy Nowling

Tom Cats is one of several pawn shops in Bloomington that will be required to submit additional information to an online database.

Pawn shops in Bloomington are being required to submit transaction records and customer information to an online database agency that is designed to aid law enforcement with theft recovery.

The Bloomington Police Department has been contracting to Leads Online since 2010, a third party data holding house, which gives police the ability to search nationwide the records of items pawned as well as the customers who pawned them.

But pawn shops were not required to submit the information to the database. The changes, which the Bloomington City Council passed Wednesday with a 6-2 vote, now require pawn shops and secondhand dealers to submit transaction information directly through the site.

The information collected will include names, addresses and a driver license or other government issued identification number from the person pawning the items, as well as a detailed description of the items pawned.

Bloomington Council member Stephen Volan says this sharing of customer information is a violation of civil liberties.

Specifically, he says it is in violation of a resolution that was passed 10 years ago by the Council against the Patriot Act that calls upon all city officials and employees to respect the civil rights and liberties of all members of the communities.

“I take the privacy of data very seriously, and I definitely think that the police department and the administration do not take data privacy seriously enough,” Volan says. “They paid no attention to the very obvious civil libertarian issues that this request raises.”

Patricia Mulvihill, assistant city attorney for Bloomington, says Leads Online is just as secure as any hospital or financial institution and Bloomington residents should not be worried about the security of their information.

The new database will allow the police department to search nationwide for missing items, not just through a localized source of information from pawn shops. Currently, nearly 120 law enforcement agencies in Indiana are using the database.

“Leads Online collates data for everybody,” Mulvihill says. “The police department will report information that is stolen, which we will upload to Leads Online. Then when the pawn shops, scrap metal dealers and secondhand dealers upload their transactions, Leads Online will use some sort of technology to link them if there is a common thread.”

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