Government Technology

Police Turn to Flickr, Pinterest to Return Stolen Goods to Rightful Owners

April 30, 2014 By

A new website launched by the police department in Roseville, Calif., helps victims of theft recover their stolen goods. Launched this April, the website features photos of stolen items like bicycles, computer equipment and jewelry that users can claim by offering serial numbers or a detailed description.

Police say the website was created so more people can get their stolen property back, rather than having it auctioned off online. Stolen property found by the department that goes unclaimed for 90 days is typically sold through, and 50 percent of the proceeds go back to the department. The funds the department receives are insignificant, so they might as well try harder to get the property back into the hands of its owners, a department spokesperson said, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Roseville’s approach to stolen property is uncommon, but not unique. The police department in Redwood City, Calif., maintains a Pinterest account to share images of stolen property. Watches, jewelry and bicycles are shown alongside the department’s phone number for recovery. After 30 days, found items “may be purged at the discretion of the agency.”

The Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia maintains a Flickr account to share images of stolen property. Albums of stolen goods are created by month. An album of stolen bicycles for January 2014 contains 76 photos of bicycles of all sizes – one of a small pink scooter.

The most common solution for police departments around the country is to simply have residents file a report when property is stolen and the information given is matched against the department’s inventory. The use of image hosting websites is becoming more common, however, even if just for isolated incidents.

Detectives from the Sammamish Police Department and the King County Sheriff's Office in Washington state posted images (Password: SammamishPD) online on Photobucket after catching a couple of burglars who had committed more than 80 residential burglaries in 2012 and 2013. The album contains hundreds of images of property stolen by the burglars, from prescription medication and gold watches to autographed baseballs and flip flops.

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