Berwyn District Civic Association

Thursday, March 16, 2006

 

 

Agenda Item 1.  Introductions; roll call for officers

The meeting was called to order by BDCA president Heather Iliff.  Also present were officers and board members Jerry Anzulovic, Bob Baca, Andrea Carpentieri, Al Cutino, Harry Pitt, Janeen Miller, and Mark Seaton.  All meeting attendees are listed at the end of the minutes.

 

Agenda Item 2. Approval of minutes from January 19, 2006 and February 16, 2006.

Minutes from both the January and February meetings were voted into the permanent record.  Ms. Iliff reminded everyone that the minutes are available on www.myberwyn.org, and drew attention to important information regarding disaster preparedness, as well as an update on the playground renovation.

 

Agenda Item 3.  Application for Pawn Shop on Greenbelt Road (Suburban Signs location)

Ms. Iliff set the ground rules for this agenda item:  first would be the presentation, then question and answer, followed by discussion and vote.  Citizens were reminded that, according to the BDCA bylaws, only dues-paying members are permitted to vote.

1.       Presentation from Thomas Haller, Esq.; a zoning land use attorney who is representing Scott Cutlip, the business owner, with his application for a Special Exception to the Prince George’s County Zoning Ordinance.  His opening comments are summarized below:

This is the first time Mr. Haller has had to apply for a special exemption for a pawnshop.  Mr. Cutlip owns four pawnshops in the area and wants to open one in College Park.  Mr. Cutlip cooperates with the police department unit which oversees pawn shops and secondhand shops.  He makes sure that the items he receives are not stolen.  When items are brought to a pawnshop, the owners can redeem them; items which are taken to a secondhand shop cannot be redeemed.  Approximately 75% of pawned items are redeemed by their owners.

Mr. Cutlip is interested in opening a high-quality business.  He has agreed to commit, in writing, that his store will not deal in firearms.  He will not display merchandise outside the store.  Finally, he is concerned about the public perception of his store; he will not call it a pawnshop, but it will be named “Unlimited Wholesale.”  A handout of the sign design was passed around the room. 

2.       Presentation from Eladia Parilla, an eight-year employee of Mr. Cutlip.  Ms. Parilla presented highlights from a handout on pawn shops obtained from The National Pawnbrokers Association, http://www.nationalpawnbrokers.org, whose website states, “The National Pawnbrokers Association is your national trade association and is dedicated to serving you and representing the best interests of the pawnbroking industry. To that end, we provide services to our members, including the quarterly National Pawnbroker magazine, the newsletter Pawnbroker News, the web site located at www.nationalpawnbrokers.org, a national convention, email discussion groups and much more.”  Ms. Parilla’s comments are summarized below:

o        Pawnshops allow customers to quickly receive a loan of $75-$100.  A customer puts up collateral to receive the loan, and can keep the loan as long as they like.  A pawnshop provides a cash loan without the paperwork associated with a bank loan.  Pawnshops accept anything of value: jewelry, silver, electronics, musical instruments, etc. 

o        80% of the loans are repaid, and many customers are repeat customers.  A pawn business is not built to serve “undesirable” community members, as they have nothing to pawn.

o        There is no basis to support the claim that pawnshops negatively impact property values. 

o        Mr. Cutlip strives to make his pawnshops not look like pawnshops; he doesn’t want them to look like “junk” stores.  He keeps his stores orderly and neat.  Mr. Cutlip is a meticulous owner. 

o        Pawnshops are active in the community, with local charities, and politically.

3.       Next was a presentation from Detective Finn, Prince George’s County Police Department.   He has seven years’ experience in the unit which regulates pawnshops in the county.  His comments are summarized below:

People who bring items to a pawnshop must give identification and information to the shop.  Less than one-half of one percent ( > 0.5% ) of items in a pawnshop are stolen.  Pawners must have two forms of identification; information is collected regarding name, address, physical description (height/weight), date of birth, and social security number.  All items and information is documented and put into a database, which is available to law enforcement officers.  This way, if stolen items are pawned, they can be returned to their rightful owner.  Because of this database, if a theft occurs, you have a fighting chance to get your stuff back, and the thief prosecuted.  The database applies to shops in the Washington DC metropolitan area, and lists shops in the District of Columbia, and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.  All items must be held for thirty days before being sold.    

Pawnshops are more highly regulated than any other industry.  Employees must undergo background checks, and the shops are investigated regularly.  The department has had only favorable interactions with Mr. Cutlip’s stores; he has not had offenses for which he has been cited.  Mr. Cutlip also maintains a database of who has purchased items. 

The pawnshop regulatory unit has three officers and one civilian employee, all serving Prince George’s County.  Each police station has approximately 20 detectives who could be assigned to pawn cases. 

4.       Question and Answer Period:  Questions were taken from the community and answered by the presenters.  These are summarized as follows:

o        Regarding signage, will Mr. Cutlip agree to not put signs in the window regarding “Buy, Sell Trade” etc?

Jack Foley, who introduced himself as working with but not for Mr. Cutlip, commented that “we want a thriving business in our community” and advertising is part of a thriving business.  Mr. Cutlip commented that if limitations on signage are what it takes, then that’s what he’ll do; but he’s got to get customers to go into the store.  The price of advertising is outrageous; 60% - 70% of people know a pawnshop is there by driving past it.  He has not opened any shops in Edgewater because “Edgewater has even crazier restrictions than PG county.” 

o        Why do we need a pawnshop in our community, since there is a Cash & Go on Route 1, and a pawnshop on Rhode Island Avenue?  A neighbor commented that CDs stolen from a friend’s car were recovered at the Rhode Island Avenue pawnshop. 

Mr. Cutlip says that the pawnshop on Rhode Island Avenue is not the kind of business that he wants to run.  In addition, crimes do not occur because the pawnshop is in the neighborhood.  (Later on, a comment was made that the Cash & Go is an illegal business in Prince George’s County.  This author does not understand that comment; perhaps what was meant was that the business is unregulated.)

Serial numbers are not needed to recover stolen merchandise; all that is needed is a description of the items; the police try to match items based on descriptions.  Additionally, recovering items from the information in the database is only as good as the information entered to the database.  In Maryland, items are required to be held 18 days before being sold; Montgomery County requires items to be held 18 days; Prince George’s County requires items to be held 30 days; Baltimore County does not have a holding period at all.  (Again, this author does not understand this comment.  If the state requires an 18-day waiting period, how is it that Baltimore County has no waiting period?)

o        Your handout says your business is a subsidiary of Best Pawn.  Is this a franchise operation?

Best Pawn is a small business, with four other locations.  This would be the fifth.  75% of their goods are redeemed, meaning that the owner who pawned the items gets them back. 

o        What businesses surround your other locations?

Pizza and sushi restaurants; African market; Red Wing Shoes; Radio Shack; a barbershop; a dollar store.  There’s even a pawn shop across from White Flint Mall, where the average loan is $1,000.  Pawnshops are needed in every community.

o        What percent of your income comes from retail sales versus interest on loans?

Mr. Cutlip said about 75% of his revenue comes from sales, and 25% from service charges. 

o        What do you pay your employees?

Mr. Cutlip stated that his employees are paid very well.  He has two employees who make $60,000 and one who makes $55,000.  Less experienced employees make $18,000 - $20,000 per year. 

o        What are your interest rates and surcharges?

Normal interest is 20% per month.  The business has to earn money, as the rent at the Laurel store is $7,000 per month, and insurance is $10,000 per store per year.

o        What do you do if pawners do not have ID?  How do you guard against fake IDs?

The police department does “reversals”, in which undercover agents try to pawn items without proper ID.  In such an operation, if a pawn shop employee agrees to accept merchandise without ID, that employee loses his or her pawn license.  Penalties for employees who do not follow the regulations are severe.

o        This is not a convenient location as far as traffic.  How will traffic be handled?

There is adequate parking to meet code requirements.  The parking lot is easily accessible from the road. 

o        Do you sell firearms at your other locations?

(This author did not hear a response to this question.)

o        Will you commit in writing that you will not sell firearms at this store?

This was answered with an emphatic “Definitely.” 

o        How often are your other stores robbed?

That depends on the shop.  Every type of business gets robbed.  It is not a reflection on the type of business.  Mr. Cutlip’s stores have been robbed once in ten years, at the Silver Spring location.  Feel free to call Detective Fin with questions: 301-985-3674.

o        Have you met with Greenbelt and Berwyn Heights; if so, what was the response; if not, would you meet with them?

The planning board in Greenbelt has been contacted, and asked to contact Detective Fin, but the city has not yet responded.  They have not met with Berwyn Heights although Berwyn Heights is interested in meeting with them. 

o        What are your hours of operation and security measures?

Stores have security camera systems.  Some stores have digital video systems.  Videotapes are kept 30 days; digital recordings are kept for less time, but are better quality.  The College Park location will definitely have a camera system outside.  Mr. Cutlip’s relatives work in the stores, he has a number of women employees, and he considers all his employees to be family, so he is very concerned with their safety.    Store hours are 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, except for Riverdale which is open until 9:00 because of competition.  Mr. Cutlip prefers to have his stores open Monday – Saturday, although if there is competition they may be open seven days.

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting attendees:

 

Presenters from Best Pawn:

 

Scott Cutlip                   Edgewater, Maryland

Detective Fin                 Prince George’s County Police Department; 301-985-3674

Jack Foley                    Columbia, Maryland

Tom Haller, Esq.            Lanham, Maryland (business address)

Eladia Parilla                 Edgewater, Maryland

Taren Parilla                  Edgewater, Maryland

Jackie Pinchok              Ocean City, Maryland

 

 

From College Park:

 

Jerry Anzulovic

Bob Baca

Steve Brayman

Gordon Breighner

Joshua Buyon (please let me know the correct spelling – name hard to read on sign-in sheet)

Robert Catlin

Rose Colby

Morgan Gale

Al Cutino

Margaret Himmelfarb

Harvey Himmelfarb

Maria Hutter

Eric Justh

Lori Justh

Deborah Vanadia Mims

Bob Moss

Beth McAllister

Janeen Miller

Lynne Morrison

Amy Noggle

Jack Perry

Harry Pitt

Jill Reese

Mark Seaton

Don L. Spicer

Joseph Theis

Mary Catherine Theis

Forrest Tyler

Sandy Tyler

Brenton Walker

Larry Wenzel

Kevin Young

 

 

 

 

Andrea Carpentieri

Recording Secretary, BDCA