HAMMOND | "Cash for gold" businesses now must pay customers by check under an ordinance City Council members passed unanimously Monday.

The measure — aimed at giving the Hammond Police Department a paper trail for tracking stolen merchandise — also affects scrap dealers and pawnbrokers.

Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, held up a receipt from a Hammond scrap dealer identifying the sellers as "two brothers." The vague description is an example of why the city needs the ordinance, she said.

"If it was your valuable items that may have been stolen as a result of a break-in in your home, I'm sure you'd like a better paper trail than 'two brothers,'" Venecz said.

The ordinance requires businesses to write checks for any amount, even as low as $1. Businesses can lose their licenses with the city if found in violation of the ordinance.

Hammond resident Gayle Vuletic, 61, wants the City Council to go a step further and require businesses to photograph the purchased items. Venecz plans to bring up an amendment to that effect at the next City Council meeting.

Vuletic told council members several valuables, including her wedding ring, were stolen from her home in January.

"If the city of Hammond would do this, this would spare people of the pain that I've been going through," Vuletic said. "The police have been very good, but their hands are tied. They need help, and one of the ways to help them is to be able to not have places where these people can steal things and easily get rid of them."

"Cash for gold" businesses in the city already must follow the same rules as pawn shops by keeping a detailed list of purchased items and photo identification of sellers. The city also requires the documentation to be made available to police upon request.

The City Council plans to advise other Lake County municipalities to pass similar ordinances, so sellers can't go easily to Highland or Munster pawn shops to avoid Hammond's stringent requirements.

"All the cities need to follow what we are doing here in Hammond," said Councilman Homero "Chico" Hinojosa, D-6th.

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