Coming home to find your property stolen is a devastating experience. It affects your sense of safety, well-being and also potentially costs you thousands of dollars in lost property. However, this does not mean it is unrecoverable. If you keep proper records of your possessions before a robbery happens, you have a higher chance of finding your stolen goods. There is never any guarantee, but don't rely solely on the police department following a robbery or burglary.
Your own diligence and research can mean the difference between getting your stuff back and never seeing it again.
Before a Theft
Keep detailed records of all your valuable possessions. Maintain a file that stores all the serial numbers, model numbers and other identifying information of all your electronics and merchandise. Etch your last name into furniture and other belongings in a place it is not easily seen. Take photos of all your valuables as well, including close-ups of any identifying marks or features. Insurance is important as well to protect yourself against financial loss. Insurance is often expensive, but not when compared to the financial loss you suffer if you suddenly lost most of your belongings. Insurance also protects you against the financial loss associated with floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters as well as theft. Earthquake insurance often costs extra in areas where earthquakes are more common, such as California.
Be honest when giving your insurance agent the value of your belongings. Undervaluing them means you pay less in fees, but it also means you get a smaller payout later if you need to file a claim.
Call the police as soon as you discover a robbery. Avoid touching anything in case the police dust for fingerprints.
Take photos of the scene if you can without disturbing anything. File a detailed report stating exactly what was stolen. Use your property file to provide the serial numbers, photos and identifying features of all missing items. Give the police copies, but keep the originals for yourself. The more information you provide, the easier you make the officer’s job who is handling the investigation. Request a copy of the police report as well. This assists you when talking to insurance companies and also helps you prove stolen property if you later locate it at a local pawn shop, store or private seller.
Check local new reports online to see if other burglaries have been reported recently similar to yours. Some police websites list recent crimes, and this is a useful resource. Check online selling sites like eBay and Craig’s List, with a focus on your local area. Thieves often post stolen merchandise online to convert it to cash by selling it. If you locate anything that looks like your property, notify the police immediately and seek advice. Never contact the seller without police assistance and approval. Doing so potentially puts your safety at risk, and no property is worth your health or well-being.
Visit Local Shops
Visit local pawn shops and second-hand stores to search quietly for your stolen merchandise. If you locate something that resembles your property, leave the store and notify the police department immediately for assistance. It is entirely possible that the store owner bought the merchandise from the thief in good faith without knowing of the theft, but it is also possible the store owner is either in on the crime or willfully negligent of it. Don’t confront the store owner without a police officer with you. Be ready to prove the item in question is your property. The police are then able to get the seller information from the store owner once proof is established, and this helps lead them to the thief.
If a specialized item was stolen from you, check local stores or trade shows that specialize in that type of merchandise.
For example, check local comic book shops and conventions if your comic book collection is missing. If you have a gun that was stolen, check local gun shows and dealers.
Sometimes thieves steal things to commit other crimes with them. If your stolen property is used in another crime, it becomes evidence and you may not be able to get it back. In the very least, you need to file a legal claim for the property and stay in touch with the police department to see what the ongoing status of it is. Some property gets returned after a trial or investigation concludes, but this depends on the details of the specific case.
It is easy to be demoralized upon discovering your property stolen. However, do not give up hope. The police department is often overwhelmed and does not always have the resources needed to follow-up on your case. Doing your own research increases your chances of recovering at least some of your property while also possibly leading to the arrest of someone who has stolen from multiple people. There is never a guarantee of success, but preparing for theft and reacting quickly and diligently when it happens makes you less of a victim. It improves the odds of getting at least some of your stuff back.