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Houston Police Detective stresses detailed documentation of jewelry

By Jannise Johnson

August 20, 2014

Criminal Investigator Todd Harris covered a woman's hand with his, obscuring the ring on her finger, Tuesday night. He then asked her to describe the piece of jewelry.

She could not give details of the ring, despite owning it for several years.

Harris, who works with the Burglary and Theft Precious Metals Unit with the Houston Police Department, did not attempt to embarrass the woman. His demonstration was to prove that many people are simply unaware of details of their possessions.

This obstacle can hinder police investigations into burglaries and robberies" Harris said.

Harris' presentation at Kingwood Church of Christ Tuesday night, was part of the Positive Interaction Program (PIP) through the Houston Police Department on Aug. 19.

Investigators with the Precious Metals Unit work on theft cases involving gold, silver and platinum jewelry, Harris said. "The unit was modeled after the Scrap Metal Unit and is unique to the state.

Tuesday's presentation centered on the function of the police department's Precious Metals Unit. The talk also covered ways the public can better ensure their jewelry is recovered if stolen.

The need for such information is particularly high right now.

There were $21 million worth of jewelry stolen in the Houston area in 2008, Harris explained. By 2011, that number doubled to $42 million. The reasons behind this may be two-fold. Criminals have switched their area of concentration as electronic devices have grown larger.

"It's much easier to grab jewelry and stuff it in a pocket than it is to try to make off unseen with a 50-inch television," Harris said.

"Sometimes, police find stolen items in pawn shops which have little monetary value," said Lt. D.R. Atkins Jr. "It breaks my heart. That's obviously an old family heirloom that (someone) stole and sold for $10."

One way to assist investigators in recovering stolen items is to document the jewelry, Harris said.

He recommended the audience either take pictures and write detailed descriptions of the property or

That website allows people to securely upload pictures and descriptions of jewelry so that they have a record on file in case of a theft.

If someone does not feel comfortable using an online service, they should hide their jewelry in areas no one would think to look, or invest in a bolted safe, he said.

In any case, people should have detailed knowledge of their possessions.

"Make a list of what you have," Harris said. "Take a picture of what you have. Know what you have."

Kingwood PIP meetings are held on the third Tuesday of every month at the Kingwood Church of Christ located at 2901 Woodland Hills Drive, Kingwood, Texas 77339.

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