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  1. #1
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    Default Stolen Property Procedures and Prevention

    I was asked to post some hints about how to protect your property and how to aid in its recovery if lost or stolen. I can’t possibly cover all contingencies, like how to protect your equipment while the band is on break, etc. What I write here is general in nature, applicable to the U.S. However, I suspect other nations have similar procedures.

    The number one advice I can offer is RECORD YOUR SERIAL NUMBERS. You’d be surprised at how many victims think they MAY have a serial number buried in their files, yet fail to find it. Photographs are an additional technique to help in property recovery – but a clear serial number is the number one tool.

    I took the time to make a record of everything I own that bears a serial number. I have that information in my home files as well as on my PDA (it goes everywhere with me). Yes, it is password protected.

    Secondly, lock your house, apartment, and/or automobile. You’d be surprised at how many opportunist-thieves have been thwarted by a locked door. And, you’d be surprised at how many crimes have occurred because the victim neglected to lock the house or car.

    Nothing can stop a determined thief, but hardening the target (locks) and recording serial numbers can go a long way to aiding in the prevention of crime and/or recovery of your precious property.

    There are basically four crimes that may result in the loss of your property.

    1. Theft – petty (misdemeanor) or grand (felony), depending upon the value of the stolen property. Theft from an unlocked car can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the value of the stolen item(s).
    2. Theft From Person – usually a felony.
    3. Burglary – entering a building or locked car with the intent to commit petty theft, grand theft, or any other felony. The mere entry with intent is usually a felony and sufficient to prove the crime. Stealing from an unlocked automobile is not burglary, it is theft, thus not as serious as auto-burg.
    4. Robbery – the taking of personal property from another by force or fear – almost always a felony.

    The distinction between misdemeanors and felonies is important for you to understand how much effort, if any, a law enforcement agency will make to solve your crime. Felonies obviously garner more effort, but most U.S. police and sheriff’s departments have adopted “solvability” factors ( a detective scorecard if you will) to determine whether or not to expend resources to investigate crimes.

    A crime with unknown suspects, no identifiable stolen property, no violence or injuries, and of a misdemeanor nature may not even be assigned for follow-up by a detective. A crime where suspects were known (not merely suspected – “I think little Johnnie down the street did it”) or seen, or identifiable property (meaning a serial number was recorded on the crime report) was stolen, or in the case of robbery, a weapon was used, may be assigned for follow-up by a detective.

    Having a serial number and complete property description on hand when the first police report is filed (at the scene or at a police station) is important. After a crime report is prepared and filed by a reporting officer, clerical employees will enter any serial numbers into the national crime data base (NCIC). Other officers, coming upon serial numbered items during the course of their duties may check the serial numbers through NCIC and discover the item they are holding was reported stolen. That means you, as a victim, will most likely get your property back.

    Without a serial number, chances are slim to none that your property will be recovered. Can it happen without a serial number? Yes, but it is rare. If you have an item without a serial number, think about etching or engraving your state driver's license number on the item. Usually a name alone is useless for computerized records although a hand-search based on a full name MAY further an investigation.

    After an initial crime report is made, the report is filed at the local police or sheriff’s station and it is assigned a DR (Division of Records) Number. You will need to know the DR Number for further information, and because your insurance company will most likely want to know it.

    The issuance of a DR Number does not mean an investigation will be conducted, it is merely to control police records. Like stated before, the case may not be assigned to a detective. However, should you later develop additional information or find the stolen item’s serial number, you should call the agency that has jurisdiction and report the additional information, preferably to the assigned detective or to a clerical assistant. If the case was assigned to a detective, it may be the detective that takes your additional information and prepares a Follow-Up Report to record the information. It is from the Follow-Up Report that a later-discovered serial number should be reported to NCIC by the agency with jurisdiction over the case.

    While Follow-Up reporting of a serial number may work for you, the sooner you make the report and submit the serial number(s) of stolen items, the better. AND, sometimes, through inefficiency and neglect, the Follow-Up Report may never be entered into NCIC. You stand a much better chance of recovery if the initial crime report has the serial number of the stolen item(s) included.

    Pawn shops are often believed to be a good source for thieves to get rid of stolen property. Most jurisdictions require pawn shop operators to report all transactions to the local authorities. This procedure works best when everyone follows the rules. Unfortunately, some don’t.

    I see no harm in canvassing pawn shops and notifying them about your stolen property. But if you come across your stolen property in a pawn shop, notify the operator and ask him to hold the item until he hears from the authorities. Then immediately notify the local jurisdiction and request them to intervene. Each jurisdiction may be different, but in many cases, the stolen property you’ve discovered in a pawn shop is yours, not theirs and they will surrender it to you after conducting their own investigation. Ownership of property does not transfer to the pawn shop merely because they paid some thief for it. Still, be cautious when dealing with these types of property recoveries.

    I hope this very basic post will help you deal with theft if it befalls you. You can PM me for additional discussions – or post here. DAVE
    Dave

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Columnist/Official SOTW Guru Dog Pants's Avatar
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    Bloody brilliant Dave!

    Hey Mod Squad,can we make this a "Sticky?"

    see Dave, that's how ya do it.
    The soft and despicable other side of this rather nasty coin is where everything unintelligible is automatically invested with significance by culture vultures. That was exemplified by a Ravi Shankar concert in London at which, after listening to some applause, Shankar said ‘If you liked our tuning up, I hope you will now like our playing’.

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    I spent an afternoon taking digital pictures of everything I have of value, recording any serial/model numbers, and a brief description. I then put the memory card with the paper copy of descriptions in my save deposit box along with my other important documents. This seemed like an easy and effective way to store the information in a secure and easy to get location.
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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Good stuff, but surely the no 1 priority is to insure your instruments. (serial numbers will then automatically be logged with the insurer).

    I would also add that alarms in houses and cars are recommended, as well as immobilising your car. However often professional thieves just ignore alarms, but it could stop a car being driven away with your horn locked in the boot.

    Over here police have been issuing cards to put in your cars which say that there are no valuables inside. I don't know how effective that is, but I have to assume they wouldn't waste money on such a scheme if they hadn't actually done much research. Of course there's no point in doing this if you leave your horn visibly on the front seat!

  5. #5
    Forum Contributor 2011 nobhead1's Avatar
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    Excellent advice Dave - the explanation regarding the law and also the practical information regarding Pawnbrokers is accurate wherever you are in the World
    Sophomoric and proud

    'The first thing we can do, let us kill all the lawyers'
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    Excellent advice, Dave, and thank you.
    I was thinking through where thefts might be most likely to occur and came up with what may be rather obvious advice but if i think about it this is advice i haven't always followed myself:
    1. If instrument is in car always put it in the boot. (I did have a habit of putting mine behind the driver's seat on the grounds that it would be more protected if the car was rear-ended!). If you're carrying a lot of gear and therefore have to put down rear seats at least cover up the gear in the back so a thief can't see that it's valuable). Don't leave vehicle unattended with boot open when unloading.
    2. When at gig, teaching location etc.. don't let instument out of sight. This obviously makes theft less likely but also helps discourage the [very drunk voice] "aah yeah darlin i used to play that a bit at school, let me just....OOPS.. " element.
    "The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions."

  7. #7

    Default Sticky thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Dog Pants
    Bloody brilliant Dave!

    Hey Mod Squad,can we make this a "Sticky?"

    see Dave, that's how ya do it.
    Done deal,
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  8. #8
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    Great post Dave. Thank you.

  9. #9
    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    Hey, thanks for taking the time, Dave.

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  10. #10
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    Gary: They didn't come any tougher (on screen) than Broderick Crawford. What was it? "10-20 bye" or some such Hollywood jargon? He sure could shoot that little 2" .38 - a 100-yard shot was nothing for the Commissioner. But why was he out chasing bad guys?

    Pete Thomas: No, I don't think the number one priority is insuring one's horns . . . the subject matter was prevention and recovery, neither of which are done by insurance companies. True, in the aftermath of a theft, it may be wise to have insurance but clearly a secondary consideration, in my opinion.

    Obtaining the stolen-property's serial number from your insurance agent at 0230 hours may be difficult - that's when you should have the serial number in your possession, as the officer is taking the report, not buried in the files in some insurance office across town (or in another state/country).

    AND, this advice pertains to anything you may lose to theft, just not saxophones. DAVE
    Dave

  11. #11
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Dolson
    Pete Thomas: No, I don't think the number one priority is insuring one's horns . . . the subject matter was prevention and recovery, neither of which are done by insurance companies. True, in the aftermath of a theft, it may be wise to have insurance but clearly a secondary consideration, in my opinion.
    Sorry Dave, I didn't mean to deviate from the subject (although i believe it was was prevention and procedures - I missed the emphasis on recovery), and as you'd discussed writing down a serial number I thought it worth advising people to get their horns insured (as it kills 2 birds with one stone seeing as you need to write down the serial number to get insurance). I imagine it's only a small percentage of instruments get recovered, with or without serial numbers written down, and it's bad enough to lose a treasured horn. Some compensation can soften the blow.

    Also, I'm talking from my own experience and how things work in this country. I know of insurance companies here who take quite an active role in recovery of items. In fact my Buescher bass was purchased from an insurance company after they recovered it. They are very keen to minimise their losses.

    Surely all instruments should be insured, I think finding your insurance documents is exactly as important as finding a serial number written down somewhere.

  12. #12
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    Pete: I suppose anything is possible (insurance companies recovering stolen property) AND insurance may soften the blow, alright.

    I can see an insurance company trying to recover stolen property they've insured, especially in the case of fraud where the insurance company is a victim (dishonest customers, stolen-property-held-for-ransom, etc.).

    And you are right in assuming that a person who furnishes an insurance company with serial numbers probably had that number handy when arranging for insurance. The problem is that so many folks are disorganized and depend on others when it is them, themselves, who should be responsible for having the proper info at hand when it is needed. Oh, that won't prevent the crime in the first place and it may not even result in recovery, but it really enhances one's chances IF there is a chance at recovery.

    Example . . . you discover your car was burgled and your precious India-made saxophone is gone. Truthfully, a useless item, we all agree. None-the-less, you have the India saxophone's serial number in your iPhone. You call the police. They don't come out anymore for a simple car burglary (yes, it HAS gotten that bad in some cities). So you trundle off to the local precinct and file your reportt at the front desk. The serial number of that POS India saxophone is included in the report. The clerk does her (his?) duty and soon the serial number is entered into a national data base.

    In the meantime, two officers on patrol see Blacky Carbon slinking along the alleys and stop to inquire. In Blackie's pillow case is a huge load of loot. The officers find a junk saxophone but it does have a serial number. They run a check over the radio and low-'n'-behold, the serial number pops up as stolen property. One burglar off the street, many items recovered and the POS saxophone is returned to its owner. Crook does a jolt in the pen, all because you recorded one serial number from among all the stuff this crook stole. No one else gets their property back, but the guy goes to the joint. A happy day indeed. DAVE
    Dave

  13. #13
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    dave: "Blacky Carbon" erm.. no doubt something "lost in translation" here?!
    "The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions."

  14. #14
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    Rooty: Old TV commercial from years ago (like 1963 or so) where the main character was an obvious crook (black clothing, black hat pulled down over his eyes) slinking about in dark places - and gumming up one's car engine with carbon deposits.

    I was once driving around on patrol (Venice area of Los Angeles) and spotted two guys who looked JUST like the TV character. I watched them from a distance and sho' 'nuff - over a back fence they went into someone's house. I recall using that very description in my arrest report to prove up the probable cause. DAVE
    Dave

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    dave: Gotcha. Thanks.
    "The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions."

  16. #16

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    How can you find out if a horn has been stolen?

  17. #17
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    Carbs: I assume you mean how does one check out a potential purchase? My advice would be to know your seller, be it an established business or a private party known to you (or others, like the folks who post on SOTW or have good reputations on eBay, etc.). If, on the very slim chance that you end up buying a "hot" item, you can fall back on the seller and avoid a receiving-stolen-property rap. Yes, you MAY be out the purchase price, but you'll avoid criminal charges.

    But if the notorious and infamous Blackie Carbon offers you something hidden underneath his long-coat at a very low price, I'd view an offer like with suspicion. "Hey buddy? Wanna buy a saxophone . . . cheap?"

    Making an actual serial number check may be more difficult than one thinks it is. Thanks to privacy laws and the guarding of governmental records, many law enforcement folks look at such requests as some sort of violation to query data bases for stolen property information - even if it ISN'T.

    Some officers/agencies won't tell you anything, especially over the phone because they suspect you may be the crook trying to verify if your hot item has been reported yet. While I understand not giving out arrest records, stolen property info has been lumped into that PRIVACY area in many agencies.

    Still, if you know an officer, maybe a discreet inquiry could be made on your behalf without putting that employee at risk for violating agency rules, etc. Or, try walking in the front door and asking at the front desk. Maybe they'll tell you. DAVE
    Dave

  18. #18

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    You could have your serial numbers tatooed on your rearend if you want. The problem is that the police only find stolen property when they stumble on it.

  19. #19
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    Whaler: That is the second bad-mouthing of police you've posted that I can recall - and you are flat wrong. DAVE
    Dave

  20. #20
    Distinguished Member and Forum Contributor 2008 saxmanglen's Avatar
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    Dave,

    I bet whaler would feel differently about cops if he ever gets to spend time in a country that has no form of law enforcement. Perhaps a collection should be started to fund such trip for him.

    I'm sure the appreciation level would rise for those men in blue who choose to serve and protect us.

    My hat is tipped to those brave individuals.

    Glen

    BTW: I appreciate your thoughtful post.

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