Site lets users post stolen items in hopes of return

Kevin Behr

An officer responding to a burglary a couple of years ago suggested the victim should check nearby flea markets or online sellers for his stolen property.

The offhand comment lit a light bulb in the head of the victim’s friend, Patrick Riggins of Knoxville, Tenn.

In July, Riggins created the National Center for Stolen and Missing Property, a Web site designed to help victims and law enforcement recover stolen items.

The site, www.ncsmp.com, allows users to fill out forms describing their stolen or missing items, notifying people to keep a look out for the property, Riggins said.

“It’s easier to have all these eyes that can run across (items),” Riggins said, “instead of just one detective.”

University Deputy Police Chief Steve Johnson said a similar system, the National Crime Information Center, already is in place. It’s a national database of stolen items, including full descriptions and serial numbers, every police agency in the country has access to, he said.

The only catch: Victims must file a police report first.

“Not everyone files a police report,” Riggins said. He wanted his Web site to be available to those who choose not to do so. He also wanted the site to act as a supplement to the existing crime information center the public could view, he said.

“If the public looks, it’s a good resource,” Johnson said, likening Riggins’ Web site to a kind of craigslist.org – an online classifieds site – for stolen property.

Riggins said it’s too early to gauge the success of his Web site, which now features fewer than than a dozen items.

Features

The Web site is basic and easy to use, Riggins said. During the testing process, Riggins had his mother try the site.

“She’s not real Internet savvy,” he said. “And if she can get through the site, it probably works.”

Users can print “Missing” posters with attached contact slips they can post on the street, Riggins said. According to the Web site, banners and links also are available for people to put on their personal Web site.

University graduate student Keryn Pasch said the site would be a good idea if enough people used it. She said she might use the site.

“I probably wouldn’t get my stuff back,” Pasch said.

Architecture junior Alec Sands said he could not see himself checking the site because there’s only a slight chance the site would work.

“Even if I had something stolen, I probably wouldn’t check the site,” he said.

Riggins plans to expand capabilities to include e-mail alerts, pager alerts and news feeds, he said.

He said he also is negotiating with large online marketplaces to create a serial number database that would help tag stolen items to prevent their sale over the Internet.

Riggins said he understands he never will solve the problem of crime, but said he hopes his Web site will “make a dent.”

Portfolio

Another useful way for students, faculty and staff members to recover stolen property is the University’s electronic portfolio system, Deputy Chief Johnson said.

Portfolio was created in 1995 for students to build résumés, post class projects and view other people’s portfolios online, but at the end of August, University police added a valuables registry to help students keep track of property, said Sgt. Erik Stenemann, who oversees the portfolio system.

Users can register an item’s name, serial number and a brief description, Johnson said.

“It is a fire-safe, theft-proof place to store this kind of information,” he said. “The information won’t get lost in a drawer somewhere.”

Because each user has 5 gigabytes of memory storage, pictures and video may be included in the registry, Johnson said.

“Take a look around,” Johnson said. “Take down the information – or a picture – of anything that would make you upset if it was stolen.”

If an item is stolen, portfolio system users can simply attach the information to an e-mail and send it directly to University police, where a full police report will be filed, Stenemann said.