After pushback from some Omaha businesses, City Councilman Pete Festersen plans to narrow his proposal meant to deter property crime and return stolen goods.
Under his proposed ordinance, people would have to get their photo snapped and fingerprints taken before selling items to some secondhand stores.
As proposed, the ordinance would apply to operations that give cash in exchange for an item. It would also apply to businesses that accept items in exchange for a better item or for in-store credit.
Festersen said Tuesday that he’ll amend his proposal so it wouldn’t apply to operations with a trade-in component, such as a jewelry store that allows a person to trade in a piece of jewelry for something of equal or greater value.
Borsheims Chief Financial Officer Erin Limas opposed the ordinance as proposed, saying it shouldn’t apply to businesses that deal with traded property.
Limas and representatives from other businesses lined up to oppose the ordinance during a public hearing Tuesday. They expressed concerns including privacy and how more regulation would burden their operations.
“I can’t imagine the blowback from my good clients when I ask them for a fingerprint,” said Mark Schmelzer, owner of Mark Edward Private Jeweller.
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer supported the proposal, saying police see it as a way to address property crime in Omaha. He said police are willing to work with everyone.
“The Police Department is not against any business,” he said, adding that he appreciated the comments. Festersen said he, too, welcomed the dialogue.
John Dineen of Sol’s Jewelry and Loan also supported the measure.
The proposal builds on an earlier Festersen ordinance that requires pawn shops and salvage yards to digitally photograph and fingerprint people who sell material to them. Police have recovered nearly $700,000 worth of stolen goods in the two-plus years since the ordinance took effect.
The new ordinance, if adopted, would work similarly. Stores would have to photograph and fingerprint sellers and electronically report that data to a company called LeadsOnline. Sellers also have to provide identification.
Omaha police could then use the company’s database to help find stolen property and track down suspects.
Businesses also would have to hold an item for two weeks before selling it.
As proposed, goods that would have to be tracked would include precious metals like gold and silver, jewelry, guns, golf clubs, bikes, musical instruments and electronics. Shops wouldn’t have to keep track of furniture, clothing, books and antiques.
It wouldn’t apply to nonprofits like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity.
At least two council members — Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding — said they thought the ordinance as proposed went too far.
“If we continue to put more regulations and burden our brick-and-mortar businesses ... it makes it harder for them to do business,” Harding said.
Festersen noted that the city can’t regulate online retailers. And he said the city’s Law Department advised against lowering the hold time from 14 days, saying the city should remain consistent with state law.
Police Sgt. Tina Jennum said some neighboring communities require sellers to submit two pieces of identification and agree to longer hold times.
“We’re not asking for more,” she said. “We’re asking just to keep up.”
Council President Ben Gray said he thinks a compromise can be reached.
The council took no action, though it agreed to move a vote on the proposal to May 22, the next meeting when all council members would be present.
Pardon authority expanded
The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to expand the Omaha mayor’s authority to grant pardons for any city ordinance violation. The mayor previously could pardon only people convicted of offenses listed under a single chapter of the city code. A pardon from the mayor doesn’t erase a conviction, but the pardon would be listed on a person’s criminal history and could help him or her get a job or obtain a concealed-carry permit.