Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. Where do I go or who do I call to check to see if a computer, laptop, gaming console (xbox/ps3/nintendo), or other electronics is listed as missing or stolen to JPD before buying?
Dear Juneau Resident,
You can call JPD dispatch and ask if a piece of property is reported as stolen but that answer does not prove the person is legitimately selling his or her own property. Some owners don't keep serial numbers and sometimes long periods pass before an owner realizes something is stolen, especially if the owner is out of town. People sometimes steal from family members who hesitate to report property stolen especially when the stealing family member has a drug problem. Families sometimes accept being stolen from for years and just keep hoping the person will deal with a drug problem.
If you want to avoid buying stolen property, which is a crime even if the victim is unaware of the theft or doesn't want police involvement, you have to ask critical questions and use common sense. Is someone bringing in property with no reasonable explanation as to how he or she got the property? Is the person selling piece of jewelry after piece of jewelry that he says Grandma gave him? Is he willing to bring Grandma in with him or can you at least call right 'Grandma' right then to get someone to vouch for him? Is the seller someone with no job but turns up with four laptops in a month saying she just keeps trying to find a computer she likes? Is the person taking a fraction of the value of the property and wants the money right now? The most active thieves are drug addicts and they have a clock ticking to feed an addiction. That clock changes behavior. Have you checked court or newspaper records to see if this person is known to steal? Has the person sold or tried to sell stolen property to you in the past? That should make you very, very critical during future offerings.
A reasonable person can often figure out that an offered property is stolen just by using common sense and asking the obvious questions. What criminal investigators know is that when an answer doesn't make sense, that is a flag to go deeper into the issue. If you are careful, and skeptical, you can handle used property without supporting burglaries, shoplifting, and other thefts.