Anti-Theft Website Catches Thieves

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Texas law enforcement agencies are providing a way for people to track stolen property online. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell explains.

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Trace.com is a database of information on identifiable stolen property reported to the FBI by Texas police agencies. Spokesman Keir Murray of Houston says it's not a new idea, but it is new here.

"It's a division of a company called 'My Things'. And one of the original functions of that company was to track stolen art work from Europe. It must have been a post World War Two type of thing, and I think they found that the idea they were able to grow it to a larger application to track stolen property in general." 

Trace.com already is partnered with more than half the police forces in the UK and numerous international law enforcement organizations, and Texas is the first state in this country to get it. Murray says if it works here it'll go nationwide.

"We have a lot of property crime in Texas, about a million property crimes every year. You know there's obviously also a strong law enforcement tradition here, so I think they thought it would be a good fit to start." 

Murray says the database is interactive in several ways. People can also register their own identifiable possessions, before and after they've been stolen.

"They can, they can also check to see if, for example, something they might be trying to purchase on eBay or a similar type of site to make sure that it is not stolen property, and thirdly they can register some of their own belongings, so they'll be in the system in case they were stolen."

Trace.com has the full endorsement of the Texas Police Chiefs Association. Executive Director James McLaughlin says it's a great service to the public.

"We are a pilot project to see how this works, how it's accepted by the people using it. Is it a good thing to do? We think it is. On paper it looks real good.  We certainly are fortunate and pleased that the Texas Department of Public Safety has chosen to help with this."

There's more information about Trace.com on our website, KUHF.org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.