Police crack down on sale of stolen goods
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Every week in San Miguel de Allende the Department of Public Security receives an average of six reports of residential burglaries and six concerning vehicle robberies. The goods that are stolen vary, but among the most common are computers, stereos, cameras, cell phones, televisions and tablets. Many of the stolen items are thought to be sold at la placita (Tuesday Market) and in pawnshops.
On June 28, the fifth session of Mayor’s Day was held in the city. During this event, mayors from several Guanjuato municipalities, secretaries and Governor Miguel Márquez. Mayor Mauricio Trejo Pureco announced that the police department and he himself would launch a strategy to stop those vendors who could be selling stolen products. Trejo said that the goods stolen from houses and cars are sold in the tianguis. The pawnshops and yonkes (establishments that sell used car parts) also have been implicated and will be inspected to be sure that they have all the municipal requirements to operate legally.
According to Julian Villela, head of the Public Services Department, currently there are six mobile markets in the city. The biggest and most popular is the Tuesday Market, located on Boulevard de la Conspiración, which weekly features more than 1,200 vendors. In this market, planchas (concrete-floored vending areas) numbers one and two were granted to a vendor approximately 10 years ago, and 95 percent of the vendors in that space are from other cities. In plancha number four half of the vendors are from San Miguel, as are those in the last plancha, which is operated by the Public Services Department.
Although selling pirated movies and music CDs is a federal crime, these items can readily be found in this tianguis. One of the vendors selling movies and CDs commented that they have had inspections by federal agents, but all the vendors have a communication network so they pass along the information to the others so they can take the products out of the stands. This happened two weeks ago, during a municipal police operation in coordination with the Market Coordination Department. Villela commented that the object of this search was to find those vendors selling car parts, stereos or cell phones who cannot prove they legally purchased their products. Goods were confiscated in three stands, then other vendors began to remove their merchandise so that inspectors would not find them selling illegal goods.
This inspection, according to the official, was done to decrease the crime statistics in the city, and because they cannot effectively fight theft if all the conditions necessary for vendors to sell the stolen items exist. In addition, Villela commented that the vendors whose merchandise was confiscated could not prove the legal provenance of their goods, but the municipality also could not prove the items were stolen. For that reason, the vendors only had to pay a fine of 2,000 pesos to get their goods back. “They did not come back to sell the following Tuesday,” said Villela.
About the police operation, Gabriel Arturo Yáñez Saldaña, director of Public Security, commented that they are inspecting the vendors, but even though the products might be stolen his department is not in charge of investigating this. For that reason they have just talked with the vendors and discouraged them from selling those kinds of objects.
Yonkes and pawnshops
Yañez Saldaña said that the most serious violators are the casas de empeño (pawnshops), because they are legally allowed to accept merchandise and in 99 percent of the cases they do not ask for a receipt before purchasing or pawning an object, and thus they accept some merchandise that has been stolen. He made it clear that it is a federal issue. Later, in a press release, he said that currently they are working on a municipal strategy to register every establishment of this kind in the city, as well as yonkes, which must have all the municipal permits to operate. If they do not have them, he stated, they would have to close.
In a pawnshop specializing in jewelry located on calle Insurgentes, most jewelry is pawned for between 100 to 200 pesos, depending on the metal (gold or silver) and the weight. Pawning an article of jewelry is very simple. A pawnshop employee verifies the type of metal using an acid test then offers the seller a price. A worker from this pawn shop commented that before taking the objet they ask for identification and the information is registered in a database. The worker also said that sometimes agents from the Ministerio Público (District Attorney’s Office) have come to the store accompanied by those who stole and pawned the jewelry there. In those cases, she said, the casa de empeño hands over the piece to the agents and it is a loss for the store.
In another store, one of the employees commented that they never ask for a receipt as proof of purchasing the product, but to avoid future problems with the Ministerio Público the client must show an ID. The employee commented that many times clients prefer to sell their products instead of pawning them.
In another shop, I tried pawning a Samsung Galaxy Mini SIII and they offered me a loan of 2,000 pesos. For that I had to show an ID, but they did not ask me for a receipt. If the pawned object is a car or a motorcycle the invoice and other documents are strictly required. The employee also commented that they have not had problems with the Ministerio Público because of buying stolen objects. He said he thinks that criminals sell stolen products in other establishments in different cities, but not in San Miguel.
Personnel from Prendaplus provided information on their process for accepting objects. They said that before buying or pawning something they ask questions to be sure that the product has not been stolen, such as where, how and when the product was purchased, as well as the price. In the specific case of telephones, computers and tablets, the clients must know the passwords and must bring the charger. After the interview a figure is offered. If customers decide to pawn or sell the object, they must show ID and their information will be registered in a database; their pictures are also taken.
Employees said that some time ago agents from the Attorney General’s Office visited them and gave them information they could use if they have suspicious clients in the shop. They said that they have only once had a problem with the Ministerio Público, because of a stolen guitar. They take all kind of articles, except they do not offer money for houses. They said in addition that many of their clients are doctors, lawyers or other professionals who get loans in the morning and in the afternoon return to pay for and retrieve their objects. They said that they are ready for any inspection from the federal, state or local government.
Workers from Prendaplus commented that to sell or pawn an item or to fill out a criminal complaint in case of a robbery the owners of the product should provide basic information such as model, serial number, invoice and general characteristics of the object, as well as passwords if applicable.