Recovering stolen property
July 16, 2014 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know what the procedure is for confiscating something that's stolen?

Someone in our same biz has notified us that an easily identifiable item that was stolen from our business is likely to come through his shop in two days- the thief called him about getting accessories for it. What are the rules about the shop owner simply confiscating it? If the thief doesn't bring it in, but comes in himself, what should happen then?

We have a police report and all that from when it happened.

Difficulty level: Oakland, CA where every damn police detective's "mailbox is full is not accepting messages."
posted by small_ruminant to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, I found the guy's facebook page, where he's posing with said stolen item.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:37 PM on July 16, 2014

You're telling me if you call the police station, you can't get through to a dispatcher or police officer? How about you go to a police station and find someone to help you? The shop owner can't steal it back from him for you, that's crazy. I mean, the shop owner should get the guy's info if he can, but I'd really just ask the police.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:48 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The police in Oakland really do not answer their phones- even 911 calls from cell phones go to the CHP instead. (SO glad I moved out of that city! Let me count the ways! Also, let me use this space to give a shout out to Richmond, which I find superior in most ways.)

The item was stolen in Oakland, and the city that this accessories shop is in is 5 hours away, in a different jurisdiction, (but in the same state).

Personally I'd just keep it and tell the thief to call the cops if he's mad. But it seems unreasonable to ask someone else to do that.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:55 PM on July 16, 2014

If the shop is 5 hours away, perhaps their police are more responsive? Perhaps you could forward a copy of your report to the shop owner and have him contact his local PD to make the arrest?
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:59 PM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

What agatha_magatha said: work with the other store's local police. Have your documentation ready. No need to involve Oakland police; the thief isn't even there any longer, I assume.
posted by Atrahasis at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The item was stolen in Oakland, and the city that this accessories shop is in is 5 hours away, in a different jurisdiction, (but in the same state).

Call the police in that jurisdiction. This is not an Oakland PD issue.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2014

Agreeing with others here - involve the police in his jurisdiction. I know a few pawn shop owners who regularly withhold items that people try to sell to them if they are known to be stolen. They then call the police and invite the thief to stick around to explain to the police how they have a legal right to the item. As you might guess, they don't stick around.
posted by mbatch at 5:14 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, call the police in the other jurisdiction. Provide them with as much documentation as you can, including copies (if you have them) or the reference number (if you do not) for the Oakland police report (if you didn't file a report when the item is stolen you really should have, and your options moving forward will be significantly restricted.) Give them sales receipts if you have them, or pictures of you with the item in question if you don't. Make it clear that all they have to do is show up and pick up the criminals and you will lay out the rest of their case for them -- if at all possible.

By coincidence of timing, I just heard from the Hayward (California) Police Department this week that they have recovered some property stolen from me when I was visiting in March. This strategy might not work for you, especially in Oakland, but after I was burgled I went to considerable effort to do all of the legwork I could to make things easier for the police -- starting with the usual (full inventory of what was stolen, including all identifying characteristics I could provide, serial numbers when known, etc..) but also managed to track access from one of the stolen devices to a residential IP address, researched the ISP's records request process, and handed over to the police a packet basically saying "here is a sample request with supporting documentation, fax to this number at this company". It's not that the police don't like closing cases and catching criminals, but they have (in many jurisdictions) limited resources compared to the demands on their time. The best way I have found to increase your odds for getting a good result is to carry things as far towards completion as you can and let them do the rest (and get the credit.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 5:17 PM on July 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you! Hopefully the police department in the other city is more functional than Oakland's.

We have photos, police reports and it's a relatively rare item (we wrote it off last year as a loss) etc, so we should have everything the other city's police department needs.

If the thief doesn't end up bringing in the item, I am not sure what we'll do. I doubt they'll be able to hold him there! But my guess is that he'll bring it with him to the shop.

Otherwise we'll have to hire a PI or something, I suppose. I have a likely address for him via ZabaSearch but god knows how old it is- the guy's young and when I was young I moved every 6 months. We're lucky he has a name that has an unusual spelling, and we're lucky that the other shop owner is such a mensch.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:34 PM on July 16, 2014

Did you collect insurance on the item? If so, I would contact the insurance company and have them handle it.
posted by 724A at 5:40 PM on July 16, 2014

I am sorry if I missed it, but how do you know the person in possession of the item today is a thief? A lot can happen in a year. Is it possible they have been victimized as well - by that I mean unknowingly been sold stolen goods?
posted by phil at 6:49 PM on July 16, 2014

Response by poster: That's true. He could have bought it from someone else. We have a witness to the theft so we could ask that guy. In any case, it's stolen property, no matter how he got it.

Suspiciously, he lives here but is taking it to the only other shop on this side of the country, which is 5 hours away, instead of this one which is exceedingly local to him (going by his facebook profile).

Of course, he could have taken it to the opposite coast and someone probably would have notified us- he's pretty young and I'm guessing he doesn't understand how small the world is when you're in a niche industry. He should have taken it out of the country.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:00 PM on July 16, 2014

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