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Upshur County Sheriff's Department joins online investigative database

By Sarah Thomas

June 13, 2013

The Upshur County Sheriff's Office has joined more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies and businesses that participate in LeadsOnline — an online investigative tool that helps law enforcement locate theft suspects and retrieve stolen goods.

Lt. Freddie Fitzgerald said the department decided to join the service because it is an efficient tool in solving property crimes, potentially shaving months off investigations.

"Before when (stolen property) was pawned or sold, the law enforcement agency would have to go out to each store and get a copy of the pawn tickets and manually go through each ticket," he said. "The old way could put you about three months behind."

The searchable, digital database gives law enforcement officers the ability to track stolen goods by serial numbers, suspect name, or item description.

Stolen goods can be tracked nationwide across secondhand stores, scrap metal dealers, pawnshops and online sites such as eBay.

The system only picks up items that are sold or pawned at businesses that also are enrolled in the service.

If a stolen item being tracked by Usphur County investigators is pawned at a participating business, the investigators will get a hit on that item.

Fitzgerald said some East Texas cities have passed ordinances that require pawn shops to use LeadsOnline.

He said the ordinances aid law enforcement, since pawn shops are popular places for thieves to dump stolen goods for a quick buck.

"Thefts and burglaries unfortunately go hand in hand with the drug trade. It's one of our top crimes that we investigate up here," he said. "You just cannot imagine the amount of items that go through pawn shops."

The service is also open to the public, making it possible to store serial numbers in the database for safe keeping.

The Rusk County Sheriff's Department also recently began using LeadsOnline.

Rusk County commissioners in April unanimously approved spending just less than $3,000 a year to access the database.

Fitzgerald added investigators will begin working some of the county's recent theft cases through LeadsOnline and will eventually backtrack through some of the older, unsolved cases.

"Hopefully, we can solve some of our grand theft cases," he said.

Using the online site also is expected to reduce the amount of man hours the department uses to investigate property crimes.

"It will free up our personnel to do other things when they would normally be busy going through pawn tickets," he said.


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