Online system helps police agencies work together, return stolen items

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- When a home is burglarized, more often than not, the victims never get their stolen items back.

But a new online service promises to increase your odds of getting your valuables back.

South Bend police are a part of this program, and it's already paid off.

When thieves steal things like electronics, power tools or musical instruments, they're usually looking to sell them for cash.

But now police in South Bend, and a lot of other cities, are making it more difficult for the crooks to use one of their favorite places to sell their stolen wares.

Earlier this month, we told you about some $40,000 worth of musical equipment, stolen from South Bend, that police recovered in the windy city.

“They were able to discover some of the stolen property had been pawned in Chicago,” Michiana Crime Stoppers Lt. Cindy Kilgore said. “So this is an incredible tool.”

It's an online tool called Leads Online.

Second hand dealers, such as pawn shops or gold and jewelry shops of even gaming shops, that will buy second hand games; anything that is possible where they are taking in property that's been stolen, that's the kind of shop that is required to record their intake with leads-online.

South Bend and Mishawaka are among the growing number of cities that now belong to the Leads Online nationwide network.

And Kilgore says there's strength in numbers.

“Every agency, every jurisdiction that is connected to this, if this is done properly, then every second hand distributor within their jurisdiction, is inputting their data,” she explained. “And then as things are being stolen then officers now, where they have this tool, are able to research leads-online and find out any pawn activity hand of any kind of second hand sale activity.”

That’s how investigators in South Bend were able to track the stolen instruments to Chicago, because both Chicago police and South Bend police are Leads Online members.

But the success of Leads Online is also dependent on citizens joining the network and inputting the valuables they want protected.

“You, as a private citizen, can go on Leads Online and submit your own, keep your own database of valuables within your home,” Kilgore added. “So you can go on there, you can take photos of say jewelry, which would have no serial numbers or specific identifying information. You can submit any information you have, any property with serial numbers, anything you want, anything you're concerned about replacing in the event it's stolen. And again this is an incredible tool for law enforcement and it will help you in the event of a burglary and it those items are stolen.”

And the great thing about Leads Online: it's absolutely free.

But your police department must be among those that are members of the network.

It sounds like a great program, but how do police get the pawn shops and other second hand stores to participate?

In South Bend, and other places where leads online is in place, the city must pass ordinances compelling these shops to participate or they won't be licensed.

That's what South Bend did, it's a joint city government and law enforcement effort.


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