Dealing with the distress of having your home or vehicle broken into and your belongings stolen is difficult.
But so is not being able to give detailed descriptions of what is taken so you can get it back if police catch the thief.
Kennewick police now are encouraging residents to use an online property inventory program that will help them keep track of their belongings -- which comes in handy in the event of a theft or even a fire.
"Daily, Kennewick police officers take reports where the victim isn't able to provide them with the model and serial number of items taken," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg. "Without that information, it is difficult to return items to their rightful owners."
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More than 90 percent of the time property is reported lost of stolen, people aren't able to provide that necessary information, said Mike Blatman, Kennewick police's crime prevention specialist.
That is why the police agency joined ReportIt, a secure online system that lets citizens record serial and model numbers and upload images of phones, electronics, jewelry, bicycles and other valuables.
ReportIt is offered through LeadsOnline, which is a system Kennewick police already use so pawn shop owners can log items they buy, Blatman said.
When officers take a stolen property report where serial numbers are available, they can run it through the system to see if there's a match, he said.
Police have recovered stolen property from Kennewick and surrounding areas since they began using that system in 2011, Blatman said.
But, they still have numerous bicycles, electronics and other items at the station that are recovered from burglary or theft suspects but can't be returned to the owners.
"It's just frustrating," he said. "You have absolutely no chance of getting your property back if you can't tell us the model number and serial number."
It's a problem law enforcement agencies all over face. Just this past summer, Benton County sheriff's deputies displayed more than 100 items stolen in vehicle prowls in Finley, Kennewick and Pasco that had been recovered but not returned to the rightful owners.
Part of the problem is detectives didn't have theft victims identified for the car stereos, laptops, night-vision goggles, digital cameras and more. But, some of the victims also likely didn't have the proper information recorded for the items so they could prove it belonged to them.
Blatman said ReportIt is an easy way to keep an inventory of belongings in case they're stolen, but it also can help for insurance purposes.
Even with the online property record, Blatman also recommends citizens use a secondary identification process on their valuable items -- such as engraving their driver's license number on it or using other products like DataDots.
DataDots is a microscopic disc -- as small as a grain of sand -- with a unique identification number that is linked to someone and their property. DataDots can be brushed or sprayed onto valuables and they stay on there for the life of the item.
For more information:
-- Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers has more information about DataDots on their website, tricitiescrimestoppers.org. Kits can also be bought online through Crime Stoppers.
-- To start an online inventory of property through ReportIt, go to reportit.leadsonline.com, or follow the link through the Kennewick Police Department pages at www.go2kennewick.com.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org