My name is Diana Russell and I’m the manager at Olde Towne Jewelry & Loan in downtown Ventura. I was interviewed and quoted for an article in the VC Reporter, “Stop Ventura Thieves.” After reading the article, I felt I needed to clarify some points.

Contrary to the Harvey Penwall’s quote in the article labeling Ventura as a “robber/pawner’s paradise,” we are NOT in the business of making money off of stolen items. We are one of the most heavily regulated businesses in the country, regulated by both state and federal legislation. We work very hard to abide by all of the laws that have been put in place to protect both us and our customers. Every new and unique situation that arises in this business is a call for change. This is a dynamic business, ever changing with new laws, procedures and burdens, so we are always changing our methods in accordance while following existing laws.

In Mr. Penwall’s situation, we learned a great deal from an event that had never happened to us before. We did our best to work with him once we realized the problem, attempted to retrieve his guitar from the dealer who purchased it, and have also put new methods in place to prevent this from happening again. In OUR business, we strive not to make the same mistake twice.

The vast majority of our customers are honest, hardworking and wonderful people that find themselves in various different financial situations and in need of short-term loans. We know that in this world of online sales, Craigslist, eBay and swap meets, stolen merchandise has MANY different channels to be sold through. If there is an opportunity for us to retrieve stolen merchandise for a victim, we will do it. We do our best to recover the item for the lowest price and then we “sell” it back to the rightful owner for our out-of-pocket price. We make ZERO dollars on this “sale.” We would rather do our part to see stolen merchandise returned to the rightful owner, rather than send the suspects on their way to sell the item somewhere where it cannot be tracked. We find that victims are more often than not very happy to pay the small price to get their item back, vs. taking the chance of never seeing it again.

The California Pawnbrokers Association has been the main driving forve behind AB 391, the California statewide database legislation. This was NOT an easy thing to accomplish and was NOT initiated by law enforcement. This was something the California Pawnbrokers, including us, initiated and paid for with membership dues and donations. We fought long and hard for this in Sacramento. This WILL give law enforcement the ability to search a statewide electronic database for lost/stolen items in all California pawn shops. What other secondhand businesses can say they are willing to work with law enforcement in this way? ZERO! Antique secondhand dealers and eBay fought us long and hard so they would not fall under the same umbrella with us, even though they have been buying and selling secondhand merchandise all day long. It is the primary nature of their business and yet they are excluded from these laws. We also donate regularly to Crimestoppers, are active in the Downtown Ventura Organization, and are on our way to being recognized by the city as a green business, due to our reduced waste and recycle efforts. We are proud of our business here in Ventura.

Lastly, I commend Mr. Penwall’s efforts to shed light on a situation that is in the process of being rectified by our business community. Many victims have been frustrated with law enforcement’s lack of resources and perceived complacency in regard to the overwhelming theft issue in Ventura. We are at the forefront of finding solutions and contributing to these efforts. We continue to educate the public on the truth of our business operations.

The very best advice we can give is, not to give thieves the opportunity to steal. In a perfect world, one could certainly leave $5,000 worth of priceless musical equipment, visible in a locked car, overnight, without issue. Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect world, and for the past two to three years, Venturans have been advised of the growing theft problem. Don’t leave valuables in your car, EVER. Be sure to keep all your doors and windows locked at home. Be aware of who is in your neighborhood and know that summertime brings more opportunity when windows and doors are left open, especially at night.

I think it’s fair to say that in Mr. Penwall’s situation, all parties involved bear some of the responsibility, and we have all learned something from this incident. We appreciate all of our customers and respect their property. We certainly look forward to another 20-plus years of business in Ventura, and welcome everyone to stop by, anytime. Thank you.