Thieves will steal anything -- even the kitchen sink. PropertyRoom.com, a new Web site that auctions stolen, unclaimed goods, will sell anything -- even a kitchen sink.
"We had a kitchen sink and we showed it on CBSs The Early Show, then it sold a couple of days later for 50 or 60 bucks," said Chuck Moffitt, president of Property Bureau. The San Clemente, Calif.-based company, founded by former police officers, operates PropertyRoom.com.
A traffic light, a Russian night-vision scope and a kitchen sink are just a few of the items recently sold by the site. Since going live in January, PropertyRoom.com has sold more than 85 percent of the items it has posted for auction, according to Moffitt.
PropertyRoom.com answers a longstanding question for police departments: how to deal with overflowing evidence rooms. Traditionally, law enforcement agencies organized auctions to clear space and raise a little money. But these agencies have become so deluged with unclaimed stolen goods that theyve focused on just getting rid of the stuff without concern for its value or the potential revenue to local municipalities.
The Property Bureau site offers police departments an alternative to organizing cluttered evidence rooms and holding auctions to get rid of stolen goods. Revenue generated by sales from the site is divided between the law enforcement agency and the company, with a portion of the Property Bureaus share going to scholarships for the children of police officers killed in the line of duty. Revenue from sales up to $1,000 is split evenly between Property Bureau and the departments. The company takes a 25-percent share of sales worth more than $1,000, but few items sell for that much.
One of Property Bureaus biggest boosters is the Sacramento Sheriffs Department in California.
"We projected that we could make about $30,000 a year at our auctions through our old system," said Sacramento Sheriffs Lt. Rich Merideth. "In the first two months with [Property Bureau] we surpassed that. Weve had good returns and I think theyve done a good job with the Web site."
Before partnering with Property Bureau, Sacramento managed to conduct a couple of auctions a year. Later, the department turned over its auction business to a local auction company. Either way, the department was getting limited exposure and limited dollars for its goods.
"In the old days when we did our own sheriffs auctions, it was very time consuming. It was a lot of extra work, and a lot of it was done on overtime," Merideth said. "With this system, its kind of brought us into the 21st century regarding the process and exposure of our property."
Now, instead of being seen briefly by a few people at an auction site in the back of a police station, an item passes before the eyes of tens of thousands of people who might be interested in bidding on it.
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Another feature of the site is StealitBack. com, where visitors can register goods that have been stolen from them. "We are beginning to get a fairly big database of stolen items," Moffitt said. When the company collects stolen goods, it records the serial numbers of all the items and those numbers are matched against the StealitBack database of missing property. If a stolen item is matched with an owner, it is returned immediately.
"If somebody says Thats my wedding ring, it was [taken] from my house two years ago, well ask if theres any way they can prove it," Moffitt said. "Theyll produce a copy of a police report or maybe theyll have a picture from the wedding that shows the ring. If it looks like a match, well send the ring to that police department and theyll deal with it.