Pawn shop tracking system saves time, prevents crime

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – In just three months, the Egg Harbor Township Police Department recovered approximately $80,000 in stolen property and arrested 11 people in connection with those thefts, all thanks to a new automated inventory system at resale retailers, according to officials.


 The department implemented a point-of-sale system called RAPID, which stands for Regional Automated Property Information Database, as a way to streamline the process of searching through paper receipts collected by local cash-for-gold outlets and secondhand stores such as electronics refurbishers.

 Egg Harbor Township does not have any pawn shops, but it does contain six cash-for-gold outlets, a Game Stop and other electronics stores that purchase preowned goods from the public.

 The shops are required by law to keep detailed transaction slips and either photograph or photocopy the items they purchase. Prior to the use of RAPID, the department would have to sift through paper receipts by hand to search for an item that had been reported missing.

 Capt. Christopher Ruef said the system has been helpful in the recovery of stolen goods and has also saved manpower hours so officers can be used more effectively.

“We process about 2,000 to 3,000 receipts a month,” Ruef said.

 Now that the data can be accessed electronically, it allows police to react more quickly to a missing item or to catch perpetrators more quickly, he said.

 “Shops are required to keep the item for only five days. Once it is pawned, it’s gone in most cases,” he said. “This is a much more effective and productive method that allows us to respond much quicker.”

The department’s success could be greater though, he said.

“We are encouraging other towns to get on board because something could be stolen here and sold elsewhere,” he pointed out.

 Egg Harbor Township was the first client in New Jersey to sign on to the program, which has been used in cities including Baltimore.

 More towns are taking notice, Ruef said, which is a move in the right direction.

“Lower Township is now participating, and Cherry Hill is just coming on board.”

 Ruef said the technology is a “force multiplier,” in that it allows the impact of investigative efforts to go further than previous methods.

“With a small investment, we don’t have to spend three hours going through 5,000 pawn shop receipts from three different places. It’s automated now. It’s quick and it’s searchable.”

 Membership in RAPID is “very low-cost,” he said – $250 per year per store. For the first year, the township paid the cost to get the vendors up and running on the system, and in the second year, it plans to incorporate that expense into the mercantile license fee.

 The early success is in part attributable to the cooperation of the vendors, who agreed to switch their required administrative tasks to RAPID, he said, adding that the program's implementation was made possible by Det. Heath Per, who worked "for years" to bring it to the township.

  Reducing property crime is one of the main goals of the department, Ruef said, along with curtailing drug use and street crime.

 He said those three crime categories are closely interrelated.

 “Arresting and identifying illicit drug users and those who distribute illicit drugs is an effective prevention initiative for reducing property and street crimes that directly or indirectly impact the quality of life for the residents of Egg Harbor Township,” he said.

 He said thieves typically go on a stealing spree, often in search of things they can sell to get money to buy drugs.

 “If we can stop them on their second robbery out of five, then that is three people who didn’t have to get burglarized,” Ruef said. 


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