Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…

Property recovered during Operation Eliminate - if the owner had made note of the serial number we might be able to return it to them.

…or indeed after it’s gone. This is a big issue for us – identifying and repatriating stolen property recovered from the grubby claws of the burglars and thieves we catch.

To illustrate the problem, consider this little story involving Billy – my ‘go to’ criminal.

Billy has been arrested having been caught clambering out of someone’s bathroom window, swag bag over his shoulder. As he’s been arrested for a serious offence we have the power to search his address for evidence of further crimes. This we do and in his bedsit, cleverly hidden in the middle of the living room, we find a king’s ransom in computer consoles, fancy watches and jewellery.

Looking around at the rest of his digs we conclude that Billy is not the sort of person who could legitimately afford a Rolex Submariner and so we seize the goods as evidence. They’re taken back to the station and booked into our detained property store.

Billy is sent to court and charged with a variety of offences, having seen just enough sense to confess to several recent burglaries in the area.

Now we have a problem – how can we identify the recovered gear and hand it back to the victims?

Without clear identification marks, the simple answer is that we can’t. The property will sit in our vault for a few months and then find its way to a police auction.

This does not have to be the case though and shows how important it is to clearly mark up property and keep a detailed list of what you have so that should the worst happen and it be stolen, you do known what you’ve got when it’s gone.

There are plenty of options available for doing this, from marking your things with UV pens and engraving postcodes right the way through to coating valuable bits of copper and lead with traceable SmartWater.

For the homeowner though, I would recommend using a website such as Immobilise which is free and allows you to build a list of your valuables, including serial numbers, which then becomes searchable by the police should they go missing. Photographs can be added too so that it is more likely hard to identify items such as jewellery can be returned.

Even without such a website, it’s always a good idea to have made a note of serial numbers and unique identification points so that we can include them in our crime reports and increase the chances that stolen property will one day find its way home.

Marking up property is one the best things you can do to frustrate the thieves. Clearly identifiable property is anathema to them – they simply won’t want to risk taking something that can be traced and neither will the shady characters they try and sell their goods onto. Returning stolen property to a victim is a good feeling for us too so please, the only person to loose out is the criminals and I can’t think of much better reason to do something than that!

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