2009-01-01 / Local & State

Program Helps Ky. Police Track Stolen Property

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) - A computer program is helping western Kentucky police track down stolen property that's been sold to pawn shops.

Paducah's five pawn shops submit records of transactions, including serial numbers of items bought or pawned, into a system at leadsonline.com. Police can compare the items to a national database of stolen merchandise.

Police can use the program to determine if stolen merchandise is being offered for sale at pawn shops in Kentucky or any neighboring state if the owner has recorded product serial numbers.

"This is very handy since a lot of (thieves) know we're going to check pawn shops here,'' Connie Waldridge, clerical specialist in the police department's criminal investigations division, told The Paducah Sun.

Police can also find out what local residents have pawned recently, since people must submit their driver's license numbers to sell to the shops. The program includes digital pictures, addresses, birth dates and driver's license numbers of those pawning items.

The program has helped solve four cases since it was implemented last month, Waldridge said.

It costs the department $3,000 annually, Waldridge said, but police determined that the time spent to pick up and compare pawn shops' paper records was costing more than $4,000.

"I would (previously) look through each page by hand, trying to find each item,'' Waldridge said.

The system is free for pawn shop owners.

Tyler Cryts, owner of Cash Express Pawn, likes the easy-to-use program, he said. It has also helped to improve the reputation of pawn shops, Cryts said.

"Nobody likes to ever take anything that was stolen or have things stolen and not be able to find them,'' Cryts said. "Years ago pawn shops were known for that kind of stuff.''

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