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