Whitehall News

Online registry ups odds of getting stolen stuff back

Residents can enter serial numbers of phones, bikes at Whitehall police website

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Whitehall residents can improve their chances of receiving stolen property back with a few minutes spent online.

The Whitehall Division of Police is continuing to expand its use of Coplogic, a California-based technology company that provides support to law-enforcement agencies throughout the United States.

Coplogic went online in March, first providing the means for residents to file reports for misdemeanor crimes online, but it has continued to expand, most recently to allow residents to register serial numbers of private property.

In instances when stolen property is recovered, it is "extremely difficult" to identify the property and return it to residents without a record of the product's serial number, Whitehall police Lt. Tracy Sharpless said.

This is especially true for electronics, a popular target for burglars and thieves.

"One iPad or cellphone looks just like another," Sharpless said, adding that in many instances, recovered property cannot be returned to owners because it cannot be identified.

Some items, such as a bicycle with unique markings, can be identified by description, but in the majority of cases, a serial number makes the difference.

"If we have the serial number, we can enter it and instantly learn the owner's name and address," Sharpless said.

"We have about 30 bicycles in the basement (property room) at any given time, and most times, we can't return them to their owners."

Police added the registry during the last week of December to allow residents to register their new troves of electronic Christmas presents, but few people have taken advantage of the program, Sharpless said.

At the start of the current school year, Whitehall police, through Coplogic, began accepting online reports -- anonymous, if desired -- concerning bullying and threats overheard at school.

"We've received quite a few reports this year about bullying and the reports allow our school resource officer to investigate those complaints," Sharpless said.

Most significantly, Coplogic has made taking reports more efficient for police and residents.

About 400 reports have been electronically filed since the system went online for incidents such as thefts, simple assaults and property damage, Sharpless said.

Through online filing, police can remain on the road and respond to other calls more quickly, Sharpless said.

The program saves residents time, too, because it typically takes only minutes to complete an online report.

"It can take quite awhile, on some nights, for an officer to get the time to respond (to a minor incident)," Sharpless said.

Residents who want to register private property may visit whitehall-oh.us and, under the "City Services" tab, choose "Police," then select "Private Property Registration."

Residents will be asked to provide contact information and a description of the make, model and serial number of registered property.

Cellphones, electronic devices and bicycles are among the items police recommend residents to register.

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