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COLUMBUS and Bartholomew County police understandably are concerned about the rash of break-ins and thefts that have plagued the county in recent months.
Those concerns should not be limited to police agencies. The community as a whole should be supportive of any legitimate and viable effort to not only apprehend perpetrators of these crimes but in so doing, discourage others from following the same path.
Last week Columbus police proposed that members of the City Council adopt an ordinance that would require a number of local businesses (pawnshops, secondhand stores, jewelers, etc.) to register their purchases online with a database called LeadsOnline. With this information the company is able to track secondhand purchases, and if police were looking for a specific item that might have been purchased by one of these businesses, the confirming information would be readily available.
In an ideal world, operators of these businesses would voluntarily comply with such requests, but to date none of those contacted by police have indicated an interest in using the database, several contending that such a regulation would severely test privacy issues.
Some members of the City Council agreed, adding their concerns about such an approach. Council member Frank Jerome, for instance, suggested that the city acting alone on such a plan could create a business imbalance, especially if Bartholomew County officials did not follow suit.
While those concerns do need to be addressed, the overall intent of the proposed ordinance will provide police with an extremely valuable tool in tracking stolen merchandise and even identifying people who might have handled the materials after the theft. The goal is not just to assist police in investigations but to protect the public.
This could present both city and county officials the opportunity to act in concert. Columbus police note that Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett is in support of such a countywide plan, but the County Commissioners would need to be convinced.
It is encouraging that Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix has planned to address the concerns raised by council members and work more closely with store operators in fine-tuning the proposal to address their concerns before bringing the plan back for more discussion next month.
It is important that Columbus and Bartholomew County governments have in place regulations that enable police to better discharge their duties, not make it easier for criminals to get away with their crimes of theft.
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