Police surplus

North Park Police Chief Kim Hawkes show some the surplus and evidence items that the department has stored Friday morning. (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal)

Your luck scoring a new mountain bike or precious stone for a few bucks at a local police auction could be a thing of the past.

An increasing number of law enforcement agencies across the state are using an online bidding company to auction surplus evidence items.

The Logan Police Department recently signed on with PropertyRoom.com — an online auction site that offers electronics, jewelry, clothing and collectibles for sale.

Logan Assistant Police Chief Jeff Curtis says partnering with the site brings in more revenue for the department compared to traditional auction styles.

“Bikes that we were getting a couple bucks for at police auctions are now selling online for $75,” said Curtis. “And we’re no longer letting go of a real diamond ring for $4.”

Private property ends up at police stations for a number of reasons. Stolen goods recovered from burglary arrests are only part of the picture, explains North Park Police Sgt. John Italasano.

Drug busts, domestic violence and other crimes, he said, can often result in seized property.

“If we do a drug bust and there’s stolen property and we can identify who it’s stolen from, we’ll contact them and return it to the owner,” he said. “We make every effort to get the property back to the person it belongs to before we surplus it or destroy it.”

When stolen property is recovered, a majority of it is never reclaimed by the owner because police don’t know who it belongs to. Logan Police Lt. Brad Franke says when residents document their valuable items, the chances of recovering it following a theft or burglary goes up significantly.

“We would prefer to get this property back to the rightful owners,” Franke said. “If you have a serial number or a photograph, the chances of recovering the property goes way up.”

North Park Police Chief Kim Hawkes says his agency will often seize firearms and dangerous weapons from homes where a person convicted of domestic violence lives.

In most cases, the owner can regain the property after completing court-ordered domestic violence prevention counseling. Weapons that aren’t claimed, however, need to find a new home.

State laws says if the owner of an item fails to retrieve property within three months, police agencies can sell or dispose of it.

Earlier this week, the Logan Police Department released to the public a list of goods it intends to dispose of through the auction site and on Aug. 10. The department will relinquish 95 items including bicycles, cellphones, iPods, gaming consoles, tools, and cameras to PropertyRoom.com for online bidding.

“Property Room offers tremendous value to police departments and municipalities nationwide, as well as online shoppers looking for great deals,” said PJ Bellomo, the company’s CEO. “It’s a win for everyone involved. Property Room manages the entire process, offers fantastic bargains to shoppers and returns a percentage of proceeds back to the community.”

Curtis said a truck will come to the department next week to collect the items and take them to a processing center in California, where they’ll be cataloged, appraised, photographed, and processed for sale online. A cut of the purchase price, Curtis said, comes back to the department.

“We had diamond rings that we were selling for a few bucks,” Curtis added. “This way, Property Room takes these items and appraises them and can get hundreds or thousands of dollars for an item and we get a percentage of that which means a bigger revenue for the department.”

What happens to firearms and dangerous weapons, however, works somewhat differently.

Franke says state law mandates that police chiefs have the final say on disposition of unclaimed guns and weapons.

“Weapons are something we’re very careful with,” Franke said. “State law designates that chiefs of police have the ultimate discretion on what to do with firearms.”

Guns associated with homicide, aggravated assault, or suicide are generally destroyed. When the Logan Police Department has firearms it can sell back to the public, it often trades with local gun dealers for future credit to buy police-grade firearms for law enforcement officers.

Italasano said his department destroys and disposes of firearms that cannot be sold to the public. The firing mechanism is destroyed before the rest of the gun is rendered useless.

Individual police agencies don’t pay to use the PropertyRoom.com service. There are 26,000 police departments across the country that use the site, including 27 police agencies in Utah. Company officials say there are 1.25 million registered shoppers who shop the site.

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