By Sally MacDonald
August 16, 2010
HOUSTON – Houston Police are now able to find stolen property a mile from your house or even across the country in a matter of seconds.
Officers reported having success solving property crime using the national online database called LeadsOnline.
The system helps law enforcement agencies across the country track and recover stolen property.
FOX 26 News visited the North Patrol Substation and Officer David Jones.
He was tracking a stolen video game system by entering the serial number into LeadsOnline.
"Boom, 2.578 seconds I got a hit," said Jones.
He knows immediately where it was pawned and who pawned it.
"Now I've searched 12,000 pawn shops within a matter of seconds as opposed to hours, days or months, and I got a hit on a stolen item," said Jones.
He passes off each hit to a tactical team which then builds the criminal case.
Many pawn shop owners use LeadsOnline to work with police. Jeff Chiles owns Bingle Pawn near Bingle and Tidwell.
He says he likes the system's efficiency, even if it means his business might lose money.
"When you deal with the public, there's always going to be some risk factor. Nobody likes to lose merchandise, but I actually enjoy seeing someone get back merchandise if they've been burglarized."
Before the online system, officers would waste time and manpower physically looking through pawn shop tickets.
"Oh they'd just be cold cases forever. Unless we had fingerprints at the crime scene leading us to a crook, it may never get solved at all. I know we've had at least three arrests in the two months we've been using it. I think that's astronomical compared to what it used to be," said Jones.
Crooks who visit pawn shops may soon catch on. Police hope they'll just stop stealing and not turn to the streets to sell.
Jones says property owners can improve their chances of getting their stuff back by keeping a list of serial numbers and having pictures or video of belongings on hand.