By June Hurt
Sometime around lunchtime yesterday, my neighbor was lucky enough to catch two women stealing lawn furniture from his front porch. As one of the responding police officers relayed the incident to me, I drifted away to my own little fantasy world of personal property protection….a dye-pack exploding in the face of a bandit picking up my patio chair…a wire tripped that pours hot tar and a bag of feathers on the prowler breaking into my garden shed. Despite the elation I would feel from dispensing my own form of punishment, acting on my true desires would most likely get me sued, possibly prosecuted, and most importantly, they won’t help me get my stuff back.
The truth is that although officers work relentlessly to solve these crimes, the vast majority of recovered stolen property is never returned to the victims because it can’t be traced back to them. Fortunately, back in 2009, the Memphis Police Department asked the Cooper-Young Community Association to be the first association to implement Operation Identification, a program designed to educate residents on recording and marking property (which will exponentially increase the chances of recovery and prosecution) and better secure their homes and apartments.
Success of the program depends on residents making an inventory list of their property including full descriptions, makes and models, serial numbers, and cost, as well as engraving the items with a driver’s license number and taking photos. The MPD manages a database of stolen property that can be crosschecked with pawnshop databases, and with even a partial match, officers and inspect the goods. Since a thief has to provide a thumbprint and a photo ID, this increases the chance of a successful prosecution. Marking the property will definitely help to quickly identify the property when a thief is caught riding a bike down the street dragging your lawn mower. Each precinct, as well as the Cooper-Young Community Association office at 2298 Young, has a supply of these engravers for that purpose.
Besides the usual advice of knowing your neighbors, securing doors and windows, and reporting suspicious persons, vehicles, or activities to the police, residents can also notify the police when they leave town and make sure that their mail and newspapers are picked up by a neighbor. One can request a simple drive-by of the property once a day, or the officers can actually get out and inspect the property more closely at the resident’s request. Also, anyone can have a CoAct officer come to their home and get advice on better securing their home or apartment by calling 901-636-4600.
A household inventory worksheet will be available at cooperyoung.org for download. Hopefully, you will take the time to write down some serial numbers, take some photos, and mark your property, which is much easier than trying to buy your property back from the police auction.