Posts Tagged 'property'

Sealed with a kiss…

A small corner of the vast detained property store at Walsall Police Station. Not pictured is the sword bin, or the drugs locker, or the haunted mummy...

At any police station, the seized property store may well be the room that members of the public would most like to have a wonder around. In their minds it’s full of strange weapons, ancient artifacts and priceless jewels.

Does the reality live up to what people might imagine a police property room to look like though?

In my experience the answer is yes. Take a stroll past the secure doors of the property store and you instantly find yourself in a magical world filled with exotic throwing stars, illegal substances and odd bits of copper.

Yep, when it comes to defining eclectic, the property store is a good place to start. Home to things that have both been lost and also evidence seized during the course of investigations, you are likely to find everything from remote control cars to all the bits you’d likely need to build the real thing. There are thousands of discs containing CCTV, a variety of bikes and even a bin dedicated entirely to the storage of swords.

Property finds its way into the store from a variety of different locations. In the case of found items handed to police officers, they are usually taken to a local police station where they are logged with the property computer. Staff from the property store then do their daily rounds collecting the various bits and pieces and finding them a space on the shelves.

Seized property likewise will be bagged by the officers, an exhibit label applied and then will be locked away until it is needed at court. The exhibit label is important in that it allows us to account for where the property has been. The bags are sealed for the same reason, so that we can testify that no one has been able to alter the item after seizure.

Whilst there are indeed some weird and wonderful things in the stores, there’s also a great deal of uninteresting, monetarily worthless things that have to be seized but which probably wouldn’t be of interest to a visitor to the store.

Looking at the shelves you’ll see all sorts of broken door frames, bits of metal and other anonymous items which have been collected because they may contain fingerprints or DNA useful in a case.

Items are usually kept until either collected or used as evidence in court. For evidence we’re likely to hold onto the exhibits until around six months after the conclusion of the court case should there be any appeals.

Efforts will be made to return identifiable lost property to its owner however if we’re unable to do so after a while we’ll either dispose of it or alternatively, sell it at auction.

Sales for property sold in the West Midlands are held through the Aston’s auctioneers. They publish full details of upcoming auctions on their website and moneys raised find their way back to the community.

Whilst the money raised in these auctions is indeed welcome, I think we’d prefer to be able to return the goods to their original owners as in my experience, when someone has had something stolen the item’s return is their primary concern.

Marking up your property and noting serial numbers provides your best chance for getting stolen goods back – I’ve written about this before and would say doing so is one of your strongest weapons against the burglars.

If we have serial numbers to hand, we can enter them onto our crime recording system and then compare them against the property system to see if we get a match. As I’ve advised before, get yourself over to the free property registering website Immobilise and build yourself an inventory which will be invaluable if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer a loss.

When it comes to larger items, like cars and vans, we have a number of other facilities dotted around the West Midlands where we can securely store things for them to be examined. Vehicles in particular are often seized for forensic examination and we have access to purpose built garages where they can be kept until FSI can come out and dust for prints etc.

I have to walk past the property store every shift on the way to the locker room and always slow down a little to peer inside and see what new additions they have added to their archive. It’s always something different, be it a new bike or a part from another disassembled cannabis factory, and as such it’s fair to say the property store is probably the most interesting part of the station.

The night will always win…

A Day In The Life – Parading at Walsall Police Station, Wednesday March 16th 2011, Tour of Duty – 22:00 to 07:00

The final shift of our six day set, the last night is usually the one that everyone looks forward to on the grounds that come seven in the morning, we’ve been working suitably hard over the past week to earn ourselves firstly some sleep and then after that a few rest days to recover before starting all over again. I arrive at the station just after nine as I like to catch up on my emails before briefing, something I often do with liberal use of the ‘delete’ key as the majority of the messages that find their way to my in-box are inevitably junk. Come ten o’clock the rest of the shift will have drifted into the station and we all gather in the parade room where we are brought up to speed about the latest intelligence concerning our area e.g. who is about to be released from prison, where we’re having issues with certain crimes and what are taskings are to be for the shift.

Fully briefed, me and my partner grab a set of car keys, pick up our kit and head right out the door. We start off with a drive around the town center and stop to speak to a male wearing a rather fetching silver tracksuit who comes up to the car and sings a little Robbie Williams to us before stumbling off into the night. An interesting way to start the shift! We then continue our patrols, focusing on the areas where it is likely that people will congregate before heading down the Wednesbury Road and over into Caldmore.

We’ve been out for about thirty minutes before we receive our first call across the radio – CCTV operators have spotted someone attempting to break into a disused transformer station and we’re asked to make the area along with several other units. As the incident is believed to happening there and then, we’re required to make the location as quickly as possible so on go the sirens and lights, my colleague puts his foot down and we accelerate past the usual speed limit and skip across Walsall in no time at all. Other cars have made the location before us and it is apparent that whilst an attempt has been made to gain entry, the offenders have been unsuccessful and so one car stops to investigate whilst we conduct a search around the vicinity in an attempt to locate any suspicious looking suspects.

Unfortunately the surrounding streets are empty and with only a vague description given there’s not a great deal more we can do so we resume patrol, this time floating over towards Brownhills and Rushall. The night was fairly cold with a combination of mist and rain keeping people indoors meaning and so there was not a great deal to see. We know where we’re likely to encounter problems with anti-social behaviour, traffic offences and the like so when we’ve not been deployed to an incident we’ll proactively focus on these areas, often finding something that requires our attention.

For a while our radios are relatively calm and so we continue our patrols heading through the industrial parks around Bloxwich and Bentley. We then hear another unit being dispatched to answer a call from a male who has dialed 999, apparently drunk, to angrily complain about his neighbours and that he can no longer stand living next to them. As the male has threatened a, how can I say, less than amicable solution to his issues we volunteer to back the other unit up and again pounce on the accelerator and make the location. Joining another two officers there, we speak to the male in his flat and try to calm him down. He is irate and very drunk and so we have our work cut out for us convincing him that we’re able to help him if only he will engage with us. Unfortunately after many attempts to reason the decision is made that considering his violent temper he’d be best spending a night at the station so is arrested by the other unit and brought to Bloxwich Police Station where he is bedded down for the night.

We’re more than half way through the shift by this point and so swing by Tesco to pick up a few chocolate treats before returning to the station to eat said treats. I’ve gone for Minstrels and have eaten about two of them before a call comes in to say that a homeowner has just disturbed some people in his back garden. We shoot out the station and I do my best to polish off the Minstrels as I’m being thrown about in the car on the way to the location. We’re one of the last units there but join a very impressive turnout of at least three others cars including one from the traffic department. Descriptions of the suspects aren’t great but we conduct a search of the area before returning to join colleagues at the house who are taking details from the occupant. We think it possible that the offenders may have been after the car keys to the vehicles parked on the drive, showing how important it is not to leave such items on display.

By this point we’ve entered the slowest part of the night shift during which calls tend to dry up with even the most hardened criminals deciding to catch some sleep. It’s usually at this point that I get a bit envious of them as without being occupied, tiredness can begin to catch up. Luckily we’re called back to the station to speak to our supervision who have a task for us. As part of an investigation conducted by another department an offender has been identified and we’ve been asked to go and make an arrest. The offence is serious enough to justify an early morning wake up call courtesy of West Midlands Police so having reviewed the case we take a short drive to the person’s address and deploy a knock loud enough to find its way through even the deepest of sleep.

The door opens and standing in the hallway is our man so we explain to him and his family what is about to happen and then sit him down in the living room whilst we conduct a search to identify any items that may be evidence relating to the alleged offence. There are several things that we need to seize so we gather them up and then head over to Bloxwich again where we book our prisoner on in the custody suite and sit him down in a cell until the relevant department are ready to deal with him. It’s then back to Walsall to book the seized items onto our property computer, complete the evidence labels and deposit everything into the evidence locker. This is a fairly long process and takes us past our scheduled finishing time and into a grey area in which the night has caught up and probably even overtaken us meaning we have to take care with what we’re doing with it becoming harder and harder to concentrate.

Thankfully as we’re working together it doesn’t take too long to complete our task and we hand the paperwork over to those dealing with the matter before finally finishing, putting our radios onto charge and hanging up our kit ready for another shift. It’s not been the busiest of nights but the two arrests made it feel fairly productive and certainly gave us the right to a nice long sleep when we finally got home.

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