The owner of a Richmond Heights company is pushing for a new gold standard in another suburban St. Louis County city.
Mike Duke is the proprietor of Missouri Gold Buyers, 2214 S. Big Bend Blvd. He worked with police in Fenton and the city's Board of Aldermen to achieve passage of a law regulating businesses that buy gold and other precious metals.
The new regulations will make it easier for police to find gold thieves and return stolen jewelry items to their owners.
"I've been pushing for this thing to pass for a long time," Duke said. "It's just stupid not to have a law like this."
Under the regulations in Fenton's new law, businesses that buy gold will be required to make a copy of a seller's driver's license, take a photograph of the items being purchased and fill out a receipt that includes the seller's name, address, driver's license number and phone number at the time of the transaction and hold the gold items for 48 hours before selling, trading or melting them down.
Duke, who also owns Missouri Gold Buyers businesses in Bridgeton, south St. Louis and Ellisville, says the regulations in the new law have been practiced in his businesses for years.
"Ninety-nine point nine percent of our business is housewives (selling their scrap gold jewelry)" Duke said. "That extra .9 percent is people we don't want to do business with. It just gives us a bad name."
Capt. Jeff Bader, of the St. Louis County Police Department's Fenton precinct, said a recent incident brought the problem of stolen jewelry into sharp focus. He said a local woman was the victim of a home burglary in which several items of gold jewelry were stolen. Among them: her mother's 100-year-old gold wedding ring.
Police officers ultimaterly visited Duke's business and searched through the photographs of items he had purchased in recent days. Sure enough, they found a photograph of the stolen jewelry, along with the seller's driver's license.
The problem was that more than 48 hours had elapsed since the burglary and the items already had been melted down. Police had their suspect, but unfortunately for the woman, her jewelry was gone forever.
It's just this sort of incident that Duke wanted to address.
"We don't need the problem," he said.
Duke said he originally initiated the recording of the gold items his businesses purchase in south St. Louis, where he and the prosecuting attoney and the neighborhood alderman developed the law requiring photo evidence and a 48-hour hold.
Now he wants to see the law approved everywhere.
"I want all areas to do it," he said. "That's what I'm pushing for."
Duke said he currently is working with St. Louis County officials in an effort to have gold purchasing regulations instituted countywide, including in Richmond Heights.
One of the reasons for a countywide law is to provide law enforcement with a bigger range of possibilities when investigation jewelry thefts.
"Just because it's stolen in Fenton, doesn't necessarily mean it will be sold in Fenton," Duke said. "(The law) will provide the evidence neccesary to prosecute."