Why make a police report?

Here’s an unusual story from Wyoming and South Dakota which reinforces the notion that you should always make a police report when you experience a theft, even though statistics show that the vast majority of burglaries are never solved; and with sneak thefts, the clearance rate must be even smaller.

(One in 8 burglaries are cleared, according to the FBI.)


It is not unusual for someone to come into our Maui pawn shop and alert us to something that was stolen, in case someone brings it in and tries to cash in. And when we say,”‘Have you filed a police report?” very often they say, “No, it’s not worth it.”

Well, yeah, burglaries are hard crimes to solve (see link above), but without the palapala, how are we to know the item was stolen?

In the Wyoming case, the item — a World War I gas mask — was lost or stolen from a museum display back in the ’20s. In this case, if there was a police report, it has long since disappeared, but the item did have a label saying it came from the “Pennewill Collection.”

Hardly anybody has heard of the Pennewill Collection, but there’s always somebody, and he’s on the Internet.  The label was nearly as good as a serial number, and the mask was restored to the Wyoming State Museum.

Chris Johnson,  the Rapid City pawnbroker who bought the mask — almost certainly not from somebody who realized it was stolen property — said the right thing afterward:

“Any time we hear that something has been stolen, it gives us a little bit of a sinking feeling,” Johnson said. But he added that he was pleased to be able to donate it to the Cheyenne museum.

“You can’t put a price tag on giving something back to the rightful owners,” Johnson said.

The AP story does not make it clear, but apparently the museum had both a record and somebody on the staff who was aware of the theft from 90 or so years ago.