Spokane County Sheriffs Crime Prevention Tips – Operation Identification

Spokane County Sheriff’s Crime & Safety Tips

Operation Identification
By Venus Delcambre-Morris

Operation Identification is a nationwide program that is designed to deter theft from residences and commercial businesses. In the case of theft, by identifying the serial numbers, marking your valuable items, and recording them, you can help law enforcement get your items back to you. Unfortunately, many people do not do this. For instance, a woman who was arrested for assault was found to have several car stereos and radar detectors in her possession, but did not own a vehicle. Even though she is known to law enforcement, the police had to release the items back to her because the items had not been reported stolen or the serial number was not documented by the owner. In another case, a man was being served a warrant at his residence when police officers took notice of over a dozen bikes throughout his home. Though the bikes may have been reported stolen, when the bikes serial numbers were ran not a single bike could be found in the National Crime Information Center’s database.

The National Crime Information Center data- base holds files of information located in a division of the FBI’s offices which is updated every 24-hours. These files store information on fugitives and missing people along with a list of other records, including stolen items such as boats and guns. When residents give their documented information to law enforcement, any law enforcement officer in the U.S who has recovered the item is able to run those serial numbers in the NCIC data system. So, if your property was stolen from Washington State and driven to Utah and law enforcement has entered serial numbers that the victim has supplied, that serial number is now accessible to any U.S officer. When your items have been found and the serial number ran through NCIC, your property can be returned to you.

Many times, a deputy will arrest a known criminal who is in possession of suspected stolen items. But often there is nothing that they can do to get these items back to their rightful owners, because no one has taken the time to mark and record their property. To make matters worse, even after a suspect has been arrested, there are times that law enforcement has to return the suspected stolen property back to the thief!

In the event of a theft, help raise your chances of having your items returned to you by recording your valuables. You can do this by following these simple steps.

First, do a complete walk through of your home which should include your closets, attic, basement and garage. Use your video camera, camera or cell phone to capture the image of your items by doing a wide scan of the room. Then, do a close up of your valuables making sure to add a verbal or written description of your items including brand names, and anything distinguishable such as scratches, dings or cracks.
Second, document your items by writing down the serial number of all of your electronics (usually found behind or under the item), or take a picture of the item, then the serial number. For items that do not have a serial number, you can engrave your driver’s license number onto them by using the following format. For all U.S residents, write the abbreviation of your state first and then the following letters and numbers given thereafter and then the letters D.L. For example, Washington State residents should engrave their items using a similar format of, WA/BLAINE408Kl/ D.L. Do not make up a number and place it on your valuables or use your social security number. Your driver’s license number is the most identifiable by all law enforcement across the states.

In Washington State, many licensed drivers will choose to update their driver’s license to an enhanced identification card in order to travel by air within the United States or to border countries. These new enhanced licenses will no longer be the 12-digits that relate to you by partial name and birthdate, but will now begin with WDL and 9 random digits and letters. These new numbers may not be familiar to you, but those new digits will be linked back to your old number if ran by a law enforcement officer. When engraving bigger items; engrave your driver’s license two times, one that is inconspicuous and the other so that it is visible and then include in your documentation.

For valuable items that cannot be engraved (antiques and jewelry etc.), place the item on a flat surface placing a ruler on one side to be able to give an idea of the size and then some form of identification on the other side to show ownership of the property.

Next, e-mail the pictures of your items to yourself. Or, if you used a video camera to record your items, place the tape in a secure location such as a safe deposit box at the bank or in a bolted down fire safe box in your home. In the event of your items being taken including your computer, or your phone being stolen, damaged or misplaced, you will have documentation of your recorded items in a safe and accessible place.
Lastly, once you have marked your property, put Operation I.D. stickers on entry doors (including your back door) and the front and back windows of your home. This will let would be burglars know that you are an aware citizen and that your items will be difficult to sell.

 Taking the time to go through your home and mark your property can be time consuming, but it is highly recommended that you do so. Using Operation Identification can be invaluable in the recovery of your property, make it difficult for criminals to sell your items and easier for law enforcement to identify your stolen belongings and get them back to you.

Here are a few items to consider engraving: bikes, binoculars, car audio systems, cell phones, chainsaws, fishing rods, guns, hand tools, hubcaps, lawn mowers, musical instruments, vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances, television sets

The Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Unit has several engravers in their office that they would like to invite you to checkout to engrave your items. If you are interested in borrowing an engraver, please call the Sheriff’s Crime Prevention in the Spokane Valley Mall at, 509-893-3934.