To find stolen items in area pawn shops 10 years ago, Arlington police used to collect carbon copies of every item pawned and then manually enter the information into a database created by the department. It was a slow process, easily accessible only to Arlington police officers. Now with a little help from a computer system and the pawn shops themselves, fighting property crime is a bit easier for police.
From power tools to jewelry, flat screens to guitars, at times stolen property can end up in your local pawn shop.
"Pawn shops have a reputation of receiving stolen merchandise," said David Whitmire, Market Manager for Cash America.
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One tool is changing that perception. In Arlington, items don't stay stolen for very long.
"We've been able to recover family heirlooms, bicycles, computers," said Arlington Police spokesperson Tiara Ellis Richard.
It's all thanks to a computer system called LeadsOnline.
"This is a tool that allows us to track that information and potentially return those items," said Richard.
LeadsOnline is a database with every item found in most North Texas Pawn shops. Its accessible not only to every law enforcement agency in the Metroplex, but also every police department across the country. Pawn shops nationwide enter their merchandise information into the LeadsOnline database.
"If someone were to pawn an item in Arlington and we were to find that individual's name and number," said Richard. "If it was a stolen item we could track back to other agencies we can see where else he or she has pawned those items before."
"That's the best thing about LeadsOnline," said Whitmire. "It gets it back to the rightful owner where it should be."
In 2009 alone, Arlington police solved 644 property crime cases and recovered more than $800,000 worth of stolen property because of LeadsOnline and its partnership with Arlington big chain pawn shops.
"It was a 13 percent increase over the previous year, that $800,000 amount," said Richard.
Pawn shops in Arlington voluntarily use LeadsOnline to help police track down stolen items that may be pawned in their stores.