By Debbie Hall
September 24, 2012
The Henry County Sheriff's Office hopes to continue participating in an online service that uses electronic tracking and an online clearinghouse to track — and increase the likelihood of recovering — stolen property.
Sheriff Lane Perry said he will ask the Henry County Board of Supervisors to use $3,100 of its contingency fund to pay for his office to use LeadsOnline for the remainder of the fiscal year.
A nationwide, technology-driven company, LeadsOnline, provides a number of different services to authorities, including an online investigation system that collects information about transactions at scrap metal dealers, secondhand stores, pawn shops and others, Perry said.
The information is assimilated into a searchable database, which makes it easier to locate stolen goods and recover them, he said.
"We were given a free trial subscription to the services, and we have been experimenting with them," Perry said.
If the supervisors approve Perry's request to continue the subscription through the end of June 2013, he said his office will find the funds to pay the more than $5,000 annual subscription costs in future years.
"Right now, we want to look at it a little bit longer to determine whether it is worth the cost," the sheriff said.
During the short-term trial subscription, Perry said the program appears promising.
Henry County Sheriff's Lt. Ben Rea said local authorities have recovered an Apple mp3 player from Denver, Colo., and a 19-inch Sylvania TV that was reported stolen in Martinsville.
However, unless the two jurisdictions worked jointly on a case, the county's subscription could not be used to track items stolen in Martinsville, Rea said. The county subscription would only cover sheriff's office employees in the county, he added.
Martinsville Police Capt. Eddie Cassady said the city has "been looking at doing this for about four years," but they do not have the funds. He does not know what the program would cost the city. "It's a great program," he said.
Currently, Pittsylvania County is the closest participating jurisdiction, Rea said.
The cost of services is based on the number of employees in a particular law enforcement agency, Rea said.
The current tracking system is time-consuming and limited to the borders of Henry County, with county officers visiting a number of different businesses each day/week to pick up hard copies of individual transactions, according to Perry and Rea. Officers then must go through each copy by hand.
If the county continues its subscription, the company will provide a reporting system to county businesses, Perry said.
Vendors basically would continue to complete the hard copies of transactions, and then would submit all of that information online to the company, Perry said.
The company then takes those details about the transactions — as well as information about the sellers/buyers — and assimilates it into a database that participating law enforcement agencies can access and search in a number of ways, including key words, serial numbers and others, Perry said.
Stolen items can be electronically tracked through the system, as well as possible suspects, he added.
"When that information goes online, it becomes a database for us to search, and when we have a stolen item, especially one with a serial number, the system will automatically cross reference it for us" and alert authorities with updated information about the item, Perry said.
Perry said he anticipates the system will increase the chances of recovering stolen property and locating possible suspects.
Because the online system is nationwide, authorities also can track items across state lines, Rea said.
"One of the ways that we think it will benefit us is because we are so close to the North Carolina (state) line, and we do feel that a lot of stolen property is taken from Henry County into North Carolina," Perry said. "This is a way of combating it. Technology is amazing nowadays."