Home inventory can help in reclaiming stolen items

Police recommend taking inventory of your property to reclaim lost or stolen items.
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If someone steals your personal property, you have to prove it's yours to get it back.

Police departments all over the metro area are stuck with trying to get everything from bikes to televisions to jewelry back to the rightful owners, but many people can't prove the items are actually theirs.

"Those were all open. Some were on the floor, some were on the table and the stuff was scattered," said Ellen, a burglary victim.

She is trying to recover after burglars left her house ransacked.

"This drawer was totally filled with silver and they left some of the containers behind," Ellen said.

As she went through her home, she found more drawers that were once full are now empty.

"All of the drawers and the high board had been pulled out," she said.

The break-in happened during Ellen's family vacation. What's worse, the burglars made off with some of her most prized possessions that can't be replaced.

Not only can she not put a value on it, but proving ever having those items could be a problem, too.

"There were a lot of family things in this house. Generations of items, silver and jewelry," Ellen said. "They took nine baby cups and one of them, the oldest one, dated back to the 1850s up to the 1900s."

That's why police want people like Ellen to inventory everything they own. Doing so makes it a lot easier getting recovered lost or stolen property back to the rightful owner.

"Found property, confiscated property, recovered stolen property," said Dionna Embry, Lawrence Police property room manager. "We get bikes, digital cameras, laptops, TVs. I enter it into our property database and I bar code it and put it into specific areas, depending on what it is."

But no one gets their property back unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that its yours.

"Basically, you will need some type of documentation," Embry said. "Whether that be a receipt with a serial number, the make, the model, or an owner identification number."

There are hundreds of smartphone apps and websites like "Know Your Stuff" to help you document your personal belongings.

The Know Your Stuff website allows you to upload a photo of your television, for example. You can also type in description information like the brand and type of TV, you can also record the serial numbers. The site allows you to do this for all of your valuables and you can even categorize your belongings by each room in your house.

That would have been perfect for Ellen, who is still finding things the burglars got away with.

"Every time I turned around, I would think, 'Oh yeah, my mom's engagement ring is gone'," she said. "I am sure I will think, 'Oh yeah, that is missing.' It is hard to know."

Police say even if you are not savvy enough on the computer, do what one couple did and take snapshots of your belongings to help document what you have at home. The photos document everything from their gold jewelry to the family grandfather clock to crystal and antique furniture.

But remember, pictures alone may not be enough.

"The advantage of that is great. I would really advise people to do that. Go through their homes, even take pictures and put the serial numbers with the pictures," Embry said.

Ellen never thought she would be recovering from a break-in.

"It wasn't something I ever worried about," she said.

So now, not only is she repairing the door busted in by burglars, she continues to take inventory on what they took.

"I am not hopeful that anything will come back," she said.