Most people think of pawn shops as they’re depicted in movies: shady. In the last ten years these businesses have cleaned up their image, said President Rob Lauer of the Missouri Pawn Brokers Association. Pawn shops work like this, if you need a small amount of cash, you can take an item you think is worth about that amount to a pawn shop. The owner estimates the value of the item and lends you a percent of the value in cash. They then hold the item as collateral. You then have up to 90 days to pay the pawn shop back and retrieve your item. You might think because of the business model, many of the items are stolen, but Lauer said that’s just not true, only a fraction of a percent of the thousands of items in a pawn shop are stolen.
"One of the major misconceptions of pawn shop business is that most of the merchandise that we deal in is stolen and that has been a major misconception ever since I’ve been at it in 1982," he said.
In six years, Lauer said he’s only come across 11 items that were stolen. Half of those items were pawned by a roommate or another person who had easy access to them, not a stranger who stole them.
"The bottom line is there are very, very few pieces of stolen property that end up in pawn shops and I’m not talking about just ours, just in general," Lauer said.
In Missouri, all pawn brokers are required to download information and photos of the items pawned to a third party database that law enforcement across the country can access.