U police sell theft-protection innovation

by Jessica Steeno

University Police are selling a sticker that might keep people from being permanently separated from their valuables.
Tracker Corporation of Toronto makes the stickers, which sell for $5 apiece at the University Police station.
The stickers can be placed on valuables, such as cellular phones and bicycles. A unique bar code number and a toll-free phone number are printed on each sticker.
“If you lose your item anywhere in the world, and if a responsible person finds it and calls the 1-800 number, the company will, at their expense, pick it up and ship it back to you,” said John Pack, manager of the University Escort Service. Two dollars of each sticker sale will go to the escort service.
The sticker, called Tracker, is made from the same sturdy material as license tabs and bicycle licenses. “It’s extremely difficult for someone to pick it off,” Pack said.
University Police have already sold about 50 of the stickers, which have been available in the United States for about a year. The stickers have been sold at the University since mid-September.
University Police Detective Larry Anderson said thieves may be less likely to steal an item with a Tracker sticker on it. He said if police find the item later, they can call the toll-free phone number and verify it was stolen.
Prior to the release of the Tracker stickers, University Police used a nationwide service called Operation ID.
This system assigns each person a unique identification number that can be engraved on valuables. If police anywhere in the nation see the number on recovered property, they can contact the owner.
This free service is still available at the University, but Pack said it has several disadvantages.
He said people who are not familiar with Operation ID may not know the significance of the numbers engraved on an item. Also, the service is only available in the United States, and property owners must personally engrave the numbers on their valuables. Pack said some people may not want to risk damaging their property, and so they would not engrave the numbers on items.
University Police recover thousands of dollars worth of property each year that is not reported as stolen. Sgt. Joe May said University police often have no way of returning the merchandise to the owners.
May said he recently cleaned out the University Police storage area, and gave about 75 bikes to Goodwill because they were not licensed and no one claimed them. He said the majority of the items in the storage area are recovered from thieves and the rest are found by police or turned in by citizens.
May said if people use Tracker, police would be able to return marked property instead of giving it away.