PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s destroyed lives and families, but the opioid crisis has also fueled an uptick in thefts and burglaries with addicts trying to come up cash for their next fix.
“They’re looking for money, looking to cop. So electronics are big, precious metals are big,” said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.READ MORE: Allison Park Church Holds Food Distribution Event At Beaver Valley Mall
And they’re selling those items to pawn shop, secondhand jewelry dealers or cash for gold businesses. And while many of those businesses are reputable, state legislator Rep. Dom Costa says others are not.
“All they are is legalized fences,” said Rep. Costa.
Victims like Renee Kuhn say they’ve been left in the lurch. A self-confessed addict is accused of stealing and then selling $40,000 worth of her precious jewelry. But even though she says she’s identified dozens of those pieces up for resale at secondhand jewelry shops, she can’t get them back.
“You’re a victim. Do your own research and good luck, I felt. I still feel that no one cares,” said Kuhn.READ MORE: New Ordinance Allows Food Truck Operation In Monessen
Rep. Costa and Zappala are working together to make it harder for addicts to unload hot jewelry, and easier for people to recover their stolen goods.
Zappala pioneered the use of a precious metal online registry for law enforcement. In counties, like Allegheny, every secondhand piece of jewelry sold must be registered on the site with a picture of the item, along with the license of the seller.
The problem, according to Rep. Costa, is that some dealers don’t comply because enforcement is lax and the penalties are weak. He’s sponsoring a bill to take the registry statewide and give it more teeth.
“It will make people accountable and we will be able to track back and arrest people,” says Rep. Costa.MORE NEWS: UPS, United Way Team Up For 5K Benefit Race
The legislation would include tougher penalties and tougher enforcement for cash for gold places that don’t comply with the law, but until then, it’s best to protect yourself by keeping a record of all your jewelry and valuables.