Roseville police launch new property claim website
A battery pack, Epson projector and Toshiba laptop are displayed on a new website the city of Roseville launched last week.
This isn’t a marketplace for surplus city goods – it’s a pilot program by the Police Department to match stolen or missing property to the rightful owner.
The new Roseville police website resembles a typical e-commerce marketplace, featuring a small photo and description of each item. What’s missing is a price. Instead, residents can click “claim this item” to contact the department.
After that, residents will need to produce a police report, serial numbers or some other proof of ownership before the department will release the property.
Roseville police collect about 1,600 pieces of property a month, according to the department. Most of it is evidence and quickly claimed by the owner. But some pieces – like the 32-inch flat-screen television and the blue mountain bike currently on the website – can sit for months without anyone coming forward.
Listing the items online will give the public easier access to the city’s inventory of lost or stolen items because most people have no idea which jurisdiction to call, said Scott Koll, supervisor for the property and evidence section of the Roseville Police Department
“Crime isn’t specific to a ZIP code. (The property) could be coming from Sacramento or the Bay Area,” he said. “We have no idea where the crime occurred, but we found the person responsible that had a bunch of stuff in their car.”
Like other law enforcement agencies across the state, Roseville police had long relied on PropertyRoom.com, a private Maryland-based company that auctions items collected by departments during the course of business.
“The default for the industry is PropertyRoom.com,” Koll said “You just send it to them or to the Dumpster, as heartbreaking as it is. It felt like … we could do better.”
Generally, police must hold found property at least 90 days. Officials put out press releases to inform the public and media. Still, the public rarely keep serial numbers of property, increasing the difficulty of confirming ownership, officials said.
Both Sacramento police and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department operate their own warehouses to store property collected during police work. The two agencies also contract with PropertyRoom.com.
But for Sacramento police, “bikes are donated to local charities,” said Officer Michele Gigante, a spokeswoman for the department.
In 2013, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies retrieved 501 bicycles, 1,152 cellphones and 1,550 pieces of clothing, among other items, according to spokeswoman Sgt. Lisa Bowman.
Anjan Shah, vice president of e-commerce at PropertyRoom.com, said his company serves nearly 3,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, including the three largest – New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
“Our whole premise is to be able to send money back to those folks,” Shah said, noting that roughly 50 percent of proceeds go back to the department that sent the item.
He said the company is responsible for collecting, cataloging and selling the property, ranging from electronics to fine art.
However, Koll said the money Roseville police receive from the arrangement is “insignificant,” part of the reason why the agency is launching the new website.
“We want to give people their stuff back. That’s really our focus, our goal,” Koll said.