can establish a format. For now, discussion appears to be deadlocked. Police sources that were instrumental in getting the law passed say the Department of Justice is sitting on its hands. The Department of Justice says it was hamstrung by unworkable legislation.

Most sources agree, however, that the current paper forms and the system as a whole are inadequate, and a more detailed form that can be electronically transmitted to police departments is needed. The current system in California has pawn dealers filling out paper forms and putting them in the mail. When police receive the forms - up to 4,000 per day in some jurisdictions - they are filed and forgotten until they are needed for a case. If critical information exists on those forms, police must go through them by hand to find it.

"What weve got is a paper system, largely antiquated, that were still using. Its very labor-intensive," said Mike Broderick, assistant chief of the Bureau of Criminal Information and Analysis at the California Department of Justice. "We have less than 50 percent of all the transaction information that takes place during the year."

So far, local jurisdictions are proving that an electronic pawn system has merit. But California and Minnesota will have to come up with workable standards in order to implement statewide systems.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor