By Enrique Rangel
Globe-News Austin Bureau
Publication Date: 12/04/07
AUSTIN – Burglaries and other property crimes may be down in Amarillo, Lubbock and other cities, but law enforcement agencies are betting that such numbers will go down even further – if the public is willing to help. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Police Chiefs Association have partnered with a United Kingdom company that has created www.trace.com, a Web site where people can register valuable property, report stolen property or check whether an article they are considering buying from an individual or a pawnshop has been reported as stolen.
“We think this is a pretty good idea,” said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange. “The more eyes there are for items that have been stolen, the better the chances of recovering the stolen goods and catching the thieves.”
“Trace offers Texas Texans a new method to fight theft-related crime,” Abilene Police Chief and the Association’s president Melvin Martin said.
“Having a single database of stolen items that all Texans – from recent victims to eBay customers to antique dealers and pawnbrokers – can access will help us identify and return stolen property.”
Mange and Ken Bouche, vice president of Trace, said the partnership between the company and Texas is the first of its kind in the United States.
Trace chose Texas because the state reports a large number of property crimes and because its law enforcement agencies have made fighting such crime a top priority, Bouche said.
“The FBI has 1.1 million cases on its records and Texas accounts for 190,000 of them,” or nearly a fifth, said Bouche, who retired from the Illinois state police to become Trace’s vice president.
The Web site was created in 2004 because international art dealers and art collectors were tired of having valuable items stolen and then sold in the black market, Bouche said.
People who register their items not only give a serial number – if it exists – but can also have them photographed or engraved whenever possible so that it is easy to identify them if they end up in a pawn shop or sold clandestinely.
Because the Trace partnership with DPS and the association is relatively new, some local law enforcement agencies said they have not heard of it, but when told how it is intended to work, they said they liked it.
Globe-News Austin Bureau Chief Enrique Rangel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 12457, Austin TX 78711-2457.