November 14 2018
No one can deny we have an opiate problem in America.
We can debate how that came about but we cannot deny it. The drug companies no doubt are the root cause. But drug companies are big and powerful, and like the cigarette companies, for decades, they have bought and paid for the people in politics with campaign contributions. The net result is that millions of Americans got hooked on pain killing pills. The government tightened up on the pills but now the pills have been replaced with heroin and fentanyl. Addicts need money to support their habit.
This is where the pawn shops come in.
Addicts, when they have burned through their money and relatives, turn to stealing. They steal from everybody and anybody. They steal from grandparents, employers, friends, relatives and often during burglaries. They convert the stolen goods to money at the pawn shops. The pawn shops get the goods for pennies on the dollar and sell them at a huge profit. They have to know they are buying stolen goods if the same addicts come in day after day, often with new items, still in the box.
Here in Sarasota and in Bradenton, the police and the State Attorney never go after this link in the crime cycle. They charge the addict with dealing in stolen property and defrauding a pawnbroker, but they never charge the pawn shop operator. I had a case where an addict pawned over $100,000 worth of items stolen from his employer. He went to the pawn shop almost every day during lunch break and pawned brand new items still in the original box. There is no possible way the pawn shop operator cannot know he is buying stolen goods. But who gets prosecuted? The addict does. Under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines, the addict will always “score” for prison because of the multiple transactions. The pawn shop guys turn a blind eye to the obvious, and so do the police
Addicts need help, not prison.
If the police tightened up on the pawn shops and prosecuted them for dealing in stolen property, one of the links in the cycle of crime could be broken. If you have a relative hooked in this drug cycle, it is almost impossible to get them help, until they are finally arrested. When they do, if you can get them a good lawyer, one who really knows and understands their addiction, you might be able to get them back on track. Addiction is a horrible and deadly problem. There are no old heroin addicts. Justice needs to be balanced with compassion.
Drug Court may be an option.
Veteran’s Court may be an option.