Help me get my stolen stuff back
June 3, 2010 7:53 PM   Subscribe

My car was broken into. I want to get my stuff back. What are the best strategies?

My car was broken into early this morning and the thief took a few things I want back. I know I am going to get scolded for leaving valuable things in the car, and I am not going to make any excuses. I was dumb. They were concealed from view, and I was parked in a well-lit parking lot. As far as I can tell the thief just lucked out (I have out of state plates, and have been told that makes me a greater target).

The thief took the following:

A 35mm rangefinder camera w/lens (worth approximately $900)
A Canon dSLR (older) w/lens (worth approximately $650)
A Garmin GPS unit (worth $150)

I have filed a police report, and sent a list of the hot items to the local pawn shops. Now, I am told, it is a waiting game. But I like the cameras. And I want them back.

Some more specifics. I live in Eureka, CA where there is a large and stable population of homeless people. I talked to a few and they said they would look into it, and they seemed as peeved by the injustice as I was.

Are there any tricks of the trade when it comes to recovering stolen goods?

Any reformed thieves who want to explain how fencing stolen goods works?

Do rewards work?
posted by ghostpony to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
check craigslist
posted by nadawi at 7:55 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Ethicist had a letter a few weeks ago from someone who had offered a generous reward to local pawn shops for recovering his stuff- and it worked.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 PM on June 3, 2010

Forget pawn shops, look at your local junk/second hand shops - not goodwill, but similar. They will not purchase the items if they are ethical but they might fall for a sob story or they could give a call if the items are brought in.

If they exist, I would contact local/neighborhood blogs, who can and might get the word out, and you could also leaflet.

I would say that your chances of getting the items back are slim and none, but absolutely negative of getting them back as quickly you seem to want them to.
posted by micawber at 7:59 PM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: I am not in a rush to get the stuff back. I know it will take time. I just don't want to sit around. I figure if I am a little bit pro-active about pursuing any and all leads something might stick.
posted by ghostpony at 8:18 PM on June 3, 2010

You should certainly set up search keyword alert emails on ebay. You probably wouldn't be able to tell if any one item listed is yours (unless it had distinctive marks or unless they're dumb enough to list the serial number) but you would be able to tell if a certain seller happened to list 2 or 3 things from your list at the same time.

Now, as to what to do once you have what you suspect to be the thief's ebay account name, I have no idea. I suppose you can probably report them to ebay and try to report them to the cops but I'd be very surprised if any cop was interested in getting involved with an interstate ebay investigation over a couple of cameras, but you never know.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:37 PM on June 3, 2010

A DC blog had a post about this just the other day, perhaps there's some ideas there you can use.
posted by General Malaise at 8:59 PM on June 3, 2010

Do you have a swap meet in your area? Sometimes stolen goods end up at the swap meet because pawn shops won't take them.

Sorry to hear about your stuff.
posted by corey flood at 9:13 PM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: I'll have to look into swap meets.

Do you think if I post a reward in the photo/video section of craigslist that it will act as a deterrent to the thief (because he/she might know I was watching craigslist)? Or might it help?
posted by ghostpony at 11:06 PM on June 3, 2010

I am not in a rush to get the stuff back.

Well the thieves are probably in a rush to get rid of it, so start looking ASAP. For all anyone knows this could be your camera.

Did you have other semi-valuable things in the car that weren't stolen? The things you list are high on the list of items that are easy to turn around, which implies that the thieves knew what they were doing.

Craigslist and eBay are no-brainers.

I don't know if rewards work, but offering one is pretty cheap.
posted by Ookseer at 12:36 AM on June 4, 2010

I know a woman who last year was in a similar situation. She heavily postered the area near the crime scene and offered a generous reward. She also made it a point to walk the area as well, asking everyone (and I mean everyone!) she passed if they knew anything or could offer her advice about how to find her stuff. Happy ending as someone saw her poster, called her, apologizing that he'd bought her stolen items from someone and just wanted his money back and no trouble with the police (he lived marginally on the streets). She arranged to meet him in a very public place, and he obligingly gave her back her stuff for a reward.

Good luck!!
posted by kuppajava at 7:45 AM on June 4, 2010

Look at eBay and Craigslist for the rangefinder. My friend had about $18k worth of sound gear stolen from his van a few weeks ago. Fortunately, quite a bit of the gear was rather unique, and numerous red flags were raised when several of these rather unique items showed up on eBay the next day.

He told the cops, they subpoenaed eBay for the guy's IP address, and eventually caught him and recovered most of the gear. His renters insurance company agreed to compensate him for whatever didn't get recovered.

In the end, his only out-of-pocket expenses were to repair the van's broken window (because it was cheaper than paying the deductible).

(Also, you called the police. Right?)
posted by schmod at 8:37 AM on June 4, 2010

You've got a lot of advice for getting the stuff back, but in case it doesn't work out, you've notified your insurance company (car and/or renter's/household) right? There may be a time limitation in which to file a claim to be compensated if it doesn't turn up.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2010

Response by poster: I have notified the police, got a case number, and distributed a sheet of paper with all of that information and a list of the items to local pawn shops, second hand stores, and used camera places.

Currently waiting to hear whether the burglary will be covered by the homeowner policy.
posted by ghostpony at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2010

Response by poster: A good resource I have found is which allows you to search many craigslist sites (by region, state, or however you spin it) for a particular item. This way I can check all of California in a few seconds.
posted by ghostpony at 2:39 PM on June 4, 2010

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