Neon Pawnshop sign.

If your home was broken into, would you be able to quickly provide law enforcement and your insurance company with serial numbers, photos, and/or receipts of everything that was stolen?

For far too many people, the answer to that question is: “no”.


Police Are Not Always Able to Help in Asset Recovery Cases


Police have a whole host of issues they deal with on a daily basis—violent crime among them. Most law enforcement agencies simply lack the manpower needed to deeply investigate every stolen item reported to them.

Unfortunately, even if you are able to provide local law enforcement with specific information about the items taken, police can only assist in asset recovery to a certain degree and only in certain situations.

For example, police are much more likely to conduct a proper investigation when there has been a home-break-in, armed robbery, or cases where there is evidence of forced entry. If none of these circumstances exist, the police are not likely to be of much assistance.

Essentially—if you leave your garage open some afternoon, and you’re new, expensive road bike is stolen—you likely won’t receive much help from police.

What police might do, depending on the state you live in, is communicate with local pawn shops regarding items that may have been stolen. However, this isn’t always fruitful for various reasons: laws surrounding communication between pawn shops and police vary greatly from state to state, individual pawn shops deal with possible stolen property differently.

For example, pawn shops in some states are not required to report or otherwise communicate with local police. On the other hand—states like Ohio require all pawn shops to report daily to local law enforcement. In Ohio, pawn shops send daily reports on items, loaned or pawned, which they have reason to believe may be stolen.

The variation between laws from state to state creates differences in the way pawn shops handle possible stolen property. However, for the most part, pawn shops do not want to purchase stolen merchandise or sell it to their customers. For this reason, among others, pawn shops are no longer the place criminals are taking their stolen items to sell.


Why (Smart) Criminals Don’t Take Stolen Items to Pawn Shops


So as we’ve already determined—pawn shops are no longer the “go-to” place for criminals to sell their stolen items. So why aren’t they taking their stuff to local pawn shops anymore?

There are three main reasons that criminals have moved away from pawn shops: 1. Pawn shops don’t want stolen merchandise, and are more cautious now than they have been historically, 2. Pawn shops and police work together relatively efficiently (in most states), and 3. There are better, safer, online solutions for criminals to sell stolen merchandise.

Pawn brokers and the pawn shop industry in general have been pushing back against the stereotype that they are the “go-to” place for thieves to sell stolen goods. This is the main reason pawn shops don’t want stolen merchandise. They, like other businesses, value their reputation. Pawn shops are largely not interested in forgoing a good reputation in order to make a couple of bucks on a stolen good. For this reason, most pawn shops try to avoid buying stolen goods at all costs.

When things do slip through the cracks and a stolen item is purchased or loaned to a pawn shop, police (in many states) are sometimes effective in recovering the stolen property, which is enough to scare of some would-be-sellers.

However, one major reason that pawn shops are not the number one choice for thieves looking to sell is because of the growth of the internet and social networking sites.


Online Storage for Your Photos, Serial Numbers, and Receipts


To be fair, it is pretty laborious to keep all of the necessary information for your belongings—you would likely have to buy a new filing cabinet. That’s why police detectives and private investigators are urging the public to upload this information to an online database.

According to a recent ABC News article, Houston police officer Todd Harris offers this advice about these new online databases:

“If it came from your grandfather or your grandmother, take a picture of it and describe it and put it on there. If things were to get stolen, [it] gives us a better chance to find it—anything that is important to you, even if it isn’t super expensive.”

Websites like and their “Report It” service are just one of many online service solutions for storing this type of information. Even using a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, or something similar to store this information is better than nothing.

It may seem like a pain, but it’s much easier than keeping paper copies of everything; if you are ever unfortunate enough to be the victim of a break-in, you will thank yourself later.


So What Should You Do?


Check back here at the blog—there is an upcoming article about how a hiring a private investigator could be your best option when facing an asset recovery case. In the mean time—make sure to decide on a safe and secure place to store all of your photos, serial numbers, and receipts.


Aaron Snyder, Writer, Lauth Investigations Blog