Law enforcement and local governments are scrambling to shut down a shadow industry that has grown up around the booming cash-for-gold business nationwide: thieves are snatching jewelry, then converting it into a quick payday at the shops. For example, the city of Milwaukee, Wis. passed an ordinance this summer to help police spot stolen jewelry being sold before it was too late to recover. Other cities are rushing to take similar measures, finding that the usual methods for tracking stolen goods weren't coping with the modern day gold rush
Gold buying businesses began proliferating when prices started rising in 2005, reaching more than $1,000 an ounce in 2009 and around $1,200 now. "Cash for Gold" billboards cropped up along highways, TV commercials urged watchers to mail in their gold for money and exchanges opened in unusual places like liquor stores and hair salons.
In Milwaukee, investigations last year at six shops found $75,000 in stolen jewelry and led to the clearing of 16 burglaries. The city fined the shops about $64,000 for failing to keep required records on sales.
In an effort to deter the crimes, in July, the Milwaukee Common Council voted to require all gold-buying shops to electronically submit the seller's name and photo to police, along with a photo of the items sold.