From New Mexico, a story about how an alert pawnbroker used a tip from a savvy theft victim to catch two thieves.
It started when a woman advertised on Craigslist that she wanted to sell her wedding ring for $6,000.
OK, not too savvy to start with. At our Maui pawn shop, we cringe when we see ads that, in effect, tell bad guys: “I have something valuable, come on over and take it from me.” There was a notorious Florida case where Craigslist seller with a boat was lured to a secluded location and murdered. In the New Mexico case, the woman was not hurt. When she handed the ring to the robbers, they ran.
But at least she had a digital file photograph of her ring, and she was smart enough to email it to every pawn shop in town.
On Maui, she could have used Kamaaina Loan’s mystolengoods.com to post her loss, not only to us, but for the police to see. (The New Mexico story does not say, but the woman should also have reported her loss to local police. Probably she did.)
Then she got lucky. The robbers brought the ring to a pawn shop, and it was distinctive enough that the pawnbroker recognized it. He did not offer to buy it, but he did get a license plate number as they drove off and reported that to the woman. She called the police and arrests follow.
She was lucky in more ways than one. First, she wasn’t injured in the robbery. Second, the robbers went to a pawn shop and not to a flea market or other unlicensed outlet. Third, the robbers didn’t try to fence the ring on the Internet.
Despite common belief, pawn shops are not an easy place to fence stolen property. They are probably the most dangerous.
First, pawnbrokers are trained to spot suspicious characters. Second, many (though not all) have computer systems that help organize information about stolen goods. Third, if the pawnbroker is unwary enough to take in the stolen property, he also takes in picture ID, address, thumbprint, usually a telephone number: Everything needed to make it easy to trace the miscreant.
It’s a good idea to keep records of your valuable property: serial numbers, photos, receipts. And back them up on a disc or external drive in case the valuable property that’s stolen is your computer.