The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 28, 2010

Police using online pawn shop database to track stolen property

BECKLEY — Stolen property could now return to its rightful owners’ hands more quickly, police say, thanks to a new database allowing them to search pawn shop databases from across the nation.

The Beckley Police Department has been using a service called LeadsOnline, said Capt. Jeff Shumate, chief of detectives. The service allows police to view items pawned at shops across the country, possibly tracking down stolen items and even the people who stole them.

“This is another tool we’ve been provided to make investigations more efficient, especially when dealing with property crimes,” Shumate said.

“I think, from a law enforcement standpoint, it allows us to perform property crime investigations more effectively. You can check for stolen items in a quicker manner, quickly identify possible suspects, and you have a better opportunity to recover items.”

The majority of pawn shops in the country provide information to LeadsOnline, Shumate said. A Beckley city ordinance requires it for all pawn shop owners. He noted the vast majority of pawn shops, anywhere, work well with police and do not want to sell stolen items.

The online database, to which only law enforcement has access, gives police information about items pawned and information about the people who pawned them, Shumate said. The electronic records are much easier to access than traditional paper pawn tickets. The latter sometimes weren’t found until two weeks after items were pawned.

Shumate noted the service also includes an “eBay mode” that helps police find stolen items posted on eBay or items posted by people of interest in property crimes.

LeadsOnline also sends police online alerts, Shumate said. If a person living in the Beckley area pawns several items out-of-area or out-of-state, that raises an electronic red flag.

Shumate said LeadsOnline already has a “success story” after just two months of use in Beckley. A ring worth in excess of $300 was stolen from a local pawn shop. Witnesses gave police the name of a man who was frequenting the area.

Detective Sgt. David Allard checked LeadsOnline and it showed that man had allegedly pawned that stolen ring at another local shop within hours of the crime, Shumate said. Police then recovered the ring.

That work led to arrest warrants against a Beckley man, Shumate noted. Joshua David Bohn, 28, was charged with petit larceny. Bohn remains at-large, and police believe he could be in Mercer County.

Anyone with information about Bohn’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Beckley Police Department at 304-256-1708 or Crime Stoppers at 304-255-7867. Crime Stoppers also accepts tips online at www.crimestoppersofraleighco.org.

— E-mail: apridemore@register-herald.com

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