UXBRIDGE - Police Chief Jeffrey Lourie told selectmen Monday he's working on a bylaw that would require pawn shops to hold merchandise for at least 30 days before selling or melting it, as a way to combat a rash of property thefts.
To illustrate the problem, Chief Lourie said that on Monday around 2 p.m. an elderly resident startled a man who had broken into her home near Oak Street and East Hartford Avenue through a locked side door. The man ran when he saw the woman. Douglas police arrived with their canine, Kyro, but by then the man had left the area.
In another recent case, Uxbridge police tracked jewelry stolen from the Henry Street and High Street areas to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, but that city's pawn shop law only requires a 15-day holding period so the precious metals had already been melted.
Chief Lourie commended his officers for their work tracking down these crimes, including searching the vehicle of one suspect which resulted in recovering thousands of dollars' worth of jewelry. But he said law enforcement needs better tools.
"Right now we have no pawn shop bylaw," Chief Lourie said.
“A person’s home is their castle,” he continued, telling selectmen he wanted residents to know that police were taking these crimes seriously.
Town Manager David A. Genereux said that the pawn shop bylaw being drafted by Chief Lourie would be more comprehensive and "have more teeth" than the town's precious metal bylaw that it would replace. The precious metal dealers bylaw, adopted at town meeting in May 2013, requires precious metal dealers to be licensed by the town, to maintain records of precious metals and precious or semi-precious gems purchased, and to hold those items for at least 30 days before selling or altering them. Dealers who violate the bylaw may have their license suspended by selectmen.
Noting that the thefts are largely tied to getting money for illegal drugs, Chief Lourie said, “All of what I’m talking about comes back to we have a drug problem in the commonwealth.”
He said he was taking a more active role in the Blackstone Valley Drug Task Force, working with other area police departments and the district attorney's office on updating policies.
Uxbridge police have also received a grant for a canine unit, which will start soon, and Koopman Lumber & Hardware donated more than $600 worth of material for a kennel, Chief Lourie said.
In other public safety updates, selectmen gave approval for the Fire Department to accept a $2,000 grant award from the Walmart Foundation. Fire Chief William Kessler told selectmen the money would go toward upgrading the public safety communications equipment, a roughly $5,000 to $6,000 project.