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Holden Seeks Registration of Rolex Watches

September 14, 1990|FREDERICK M. MUIR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an attempt to halt a rash of violent Rolex watch thefts, Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden on Thursday said he will introduce an ordinance requiring buyers of the luxury timepieces to register the serial number with police.

Holden said registration would make it difficult for crooks to sell purloined watches.

The proposed ordinance also would place a "five-day waiting period" on the sale of any second-hand Rolex and would require pawnshop operators to check the serial numbers of Rolexes with the Police Department.

"If a robber is made aware that he can no longer steal . . . a Rolex watch for profit, then there will be no incentive to do so," said Holden in a City Hall news conference.

Rolex watches, which sell for a few thousand dollars to more than $100,000, have increasingly become a target for crime in recent months, culminating in August when the Los Angeles Police Department reported that such thefts occurred at the rate of one a day. Several Southland Rolex owners have been killed in theft attempts.

Despite the grim trend, police and jewelers who specialize in the expensive watches were lukewarm to Holden's proposal. "We applaud his effort to further get a handle on this," said Lt. Fred Nixon, a spokesman for the LAPD. "But we have some doubt about the value of such a system."

Nixon said most owners of such expensive watches already register them with insurance companies, and the LAPD's pawnshop detail checks serial-numbered items against theft reports.

Even Holden acknowledged another problem with the proposal: thieves could simply sell their ill-gotten wares in a neighboring city to avoid the Los Angeles law altogether.

Philip Stone, chief of security for the Rolex Authorized Service Center in Los Angeles, said the Holden proposal was ludicrous. It would be impossible to check with the LAPD every time a watch comes in for repair, he said, adding that most Rolex service centers already work closely with law enforcement agencies to identify stolen watches.

Another problem with the proposal, Stone said, is that many Rolex owners would be apprehensive to add their names and addresses to any list of valuable goods. "How would you know whose hands such a list could fall into," he said.

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