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Proviso Herald

Web helps MPPD recover stolen items

June 24, 2010

The Detectives at the Melrose Park Police Department Police Department have another handy tool to help them solve crimes -- and this one works fast. In fact, it works with just the click of a few keys on a computer and the snap of a camera.

LeadsOnline, a nationwide online database that records pawn and secondhand store transactions, instantly provides that information to police, no matter where the item is stolen or sold.

"Right as we came on board with LeadsOnline, it helped us solve 15 home burglary cases," said Detective Mike Scudiero.

During one of those burglaries, a laptop computer was taken. Police were able to locate the laptop since it had been sold to a nearby pawn shop. Using the seller information provided by LeadsOnline, police were able to bring the seller in for questioning. The suspect then provided information about his accomplices and police were able to put a stop to the rash of residential burglaries taking place in Melrose Park.

"The pawn shops here in town are great in how they upload their information to us," said Scudiero, explaining that the pawn shops even take photos of the items that come into their stores and include those images in their uploads through LeadsOnline.

Residents don't always have serial numbers, but they know what the items look like, especially with cases involving jewelry.

"If you have a charm stolen and you see a picture of it, you'll know it's your charm," the detective said. "We've been able to solve cases with those images."

Use of the LeadsOnline was implemented in Melrose Park in December 2009 through a city ordinance that requires pawn and secondhand stores to upload their transaction information electronically, versus the previous way of writing paper pawn tickets that were time consuming and inefficient in helping police solve crime. That process ate up countless and costly man hours, resulting in a system that was complicated to search.

"Before we had LeadsOnline it was a One Man Show," said Scudiero. "One detective, poor guy, had to search each of the paper pawn tickets by hand.

"We'd give him a list of the stolen items we were looking for and he would go through the tickets one by one. It was really time consuming."

Now that the department uses LeadsOnline and all five detectives have access to the system, that one detective can get back to doing what he does best: solving crimes -- not searching through papers.

The database uses a variety of ways to search for stolen property, including serial and model numbers, as well as descriptions. Because the system is an online network that pawn shops and secondhand stores report to, police have real-time access to the information, no matter where the item is sold.

So, if an item is stolen in Arlington Heights and sold in Fort Worth, police will be immediately alerted to its location. Even if the property is sold in New York City, police have the same immediate access.

For more information on LeadsOnline call (800) 311-2656

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