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Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - Thursday, March 20, 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company

Internet tool helps identify property
Houston County Courier - March 2008

Trace is an online tool which confirms in real-time whether items have been reported lost, stolen, or looted. 
Used worldwide by law enforcement, auction houses, dealers, insurers, and pawnbrokers, Trace is completely free to the police and the communities it serves. 
To date, the Internet has provided thieves an anonymous global fence for stolen wares.  Trace is the best strategy available to protect consumers and aid police in shutting thieves down and recovering victims’ property. 
Consumers can check a second-hand purchase before they buy; while pawnshops and second-hand retailers can check items they suspect are stolen and deny thieves an outlet for the sale of their stolen goods.
Trace accepts reports about stolen property, while keeping crime victims anonymous.  The Trace record includes identifying item info, the police agency which took the report, the report identifiers, and additional information police officers can make available only to police or to both the police and the public. 
However, to identify investigatory leads, people who search for lost items are identified when they register. 
If a searcher gets an exact match on an item, the police are immediately sent a silent alert with the searcher’s name, address, e-mail, telephone number, and IP address. 
This information may be used by police to generate leads on property crimes or crimes related to stolen property.  The system also prompts the searcher to send additional info on the stolen item to the reporting agency.
Trace supplements local police files as well as NCIC by maintaining a significant amount of stolen property that will never be entered into the NCIC article file.  The Trace database aggregates over 650,000 (and rapidly growing) searchable items from the UK, Europe, and the U.S.
In December 2007, the FBI’s CJIS Advisory Policy Board unanimously approved a motion to give Trace the 1.1 million records contained in the FBI’s national stolen property files.  This is the first time the FBI has granted a transfer of their article data to a private company.
The Texas Police Chiefs Association, in cooperation with the Texas Department of Public Safety, have partnered with Trace to launch a pilot project that will make Texas property files freely available at www.Trace.com.  In addition, Boston MA, San Antonio and Richardson and the national British Transport Police have agreed to pilot Trace Direct. 
This application will revolutionize how property crimes are reported and solved.  In the near future, victims of crime will be asked to report their stolen property online, in detail, making the property information significantly more accurate, updatable, and immediately searchable.
Trace has seized on the opportunity to use communications tools such as Facebook to offer a unique way to reach students in their natural habitat.  The Trace Facebook Application allows users to circulate information about lost or stolen property to their friends, local networks, and campus police. 
The application encourages users to register info like serial numbers, photos and descriptions of their things before they’re stolen, helping to thwart theft on our campuses.
The Trace police partnership also allows police agencies to emphasize a “register your belongings” message in their community policing strategy and deliver tangible benefits at the same time.
The benefits come from Trace’s companion site, MyThings.com, which helps people save important information about their possessions online.
In addition, MyThings provides free services like appraisal, accessories, manuals, recall and repair information, and recycling and donation assistance.
The failure of previous property registration/identification programs was that the only benefit to the owner was protection “just in case” of theft. 
While Trace offers unequalled protection after theft, it’s the addition of valuable tools provided by MyThings which gives people an immediate reason to participate. 
How it works: a local jurisdiction’s citizens are directed from their police department or town’s website to a partnered homepage, providing a natural connection to the local police agency.  This page blends a localized police protection message and introduces the tangible benefits of MyThings.com.
Trace allows users to do several things:
1.      Search - The public searches our online database to protect themselves from unknowingly buying or trading in stolen goods.  The police search the database with access to additional information and crime details.
2.      Register – The public is directed to MyThings.com to create a free, online, detailed, and anonymous portfolio of their property. 
3.      Report - Citizen Report-it-Stolen (CRS) - The public may report stolen items directly to the Trace database only after they have filed a police report.  The citizen’s information is emailed to the police agency, with a request for the agency to validate the report.
a.      Once validated by a police agency, the item is labeled as entered by the police.
b.      If the police do not respond within 3 working days, the item is placed in Trace as “Stolen – Publicly Reported.”  The status can be updated if it is validated later.
c.      If the police report that the CRS report was false, or for any reason do not want the items publicly displayed, the records are not placed into the database.
The public and police agencies can search by:
1.      Text - A contextual search of all the fields of a property record
2.      Serial Number – If a specific serial number is matched, the entering police agency is notified
3.      Image - Trace uses LTU image recognition software to aid in identifying unique property
4.      Advanced Search - The advanced search functionality allows you to combine the three main searcher functionalities and narrow results further by identifying fields such as: Country, State, City, Date Occurred, Category, Brand, Model, or Artist/Maker
What you can expect after using Trace:
1.      Increase in property crime arrests
2.      Increase in amount of stolen article entrees into regional, state and national databases
3.      Decrease in administrative expenditures for data entry of property crime articles
4.      Increase in recovered property returned to rightful owner
5.      Increase in community engagement in proactive property identification programs
6.      Increase in vigilance of second-hand property resellers engaged in due diligence programs
For additional information on how your community can benefit from Trace, please visit www.trace.com or contact Ken Bouche at ken.bouche@trace.com.

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