Stick ‘em on your stuff: Operation ID stickers could help recover stolen goods

As burg­lar­ies and thefts in­crease dur­ing the hol­i­days, the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment is of­fer­ing cit­izens ID stick­ers to place on their valu­ables so that they will be easi­er to re­cov­er if stolen.

Al­though many people re­cog­nize the hol­i­days as a time of good­will and giv­ing, some see it only as a time of tak­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to 26th Dis­trict Po­lice Of­ficer James Cough­lin, burg­lar­ies and theft typ­ic­ally in­crease dur­ing the sea­son as homes fill with newly pur­chased goods in­ten­ded as gifts.

The 26th Po­lice Dis­trict in­cludes parts of North­ern Liber­ties, Fishtown, Olde Rich­mond and East Kens­ing­ton. The two biggest prob­lems in the dis­trict, Cough­lin said, are vehicle break-ins and home burg­lar­ies.

Giv­en that not-so-cheer­ful fact, the 26th re­cog­nized Decem­ber as the per­fect time to im­ple­ment a new crime pre­ven­tion ini­ti­at­ive — Op­er­a­tion ID.

Op­er­a­tion ID is a city­wide prop­erty iden­ti­fic­a­tion pro­gram that aims to as­sist po­lice in the re­cov­ery of stolen items. Each po­lice dis­trict in the city will im­ple­ment the pro­gram — or already has — but the 26th will host an open house Dec. 17 to in­form res­id­ents of the pro­gram and oth­er safety and crime-pre­ven­tion ini­ti­at­ives.

“Nobody saves their [pur­chased mer­chand­ise’s] seri­al num­bers any­more,” Cough­lin said. “When things get stolen, there’s no real iden­ti­fi­er.”

In turn, then, Op­er­a­tion ID provides cit­izens with 10 item stick­ers to place on valu­ables — TVs, com­puters, iPods, cam­er­as and game sys­tems — as well as two win­dow stick­ers to place on the front and back win­dows of their homes.

Those stick­ers will alert would-be burg­lars that the prop­erty par­ti­cip­ates in the pro­gram.

The stick­ers will have a re­gis­trant’s unique iden­ti­fic­a­tion num­ber on them, al­low­ing po­lice to track a stolen item back to its own­er. If a thief re­moves the stick­er, a per­man­ent “VOID” mark is left be­hind, which in­dic­ates the item is stolen.

Cough­lin said he would be vis­it­ing pawn shops and oth­er second-hand and re­sale shops around the dis­trict to ad­vise mer­chants to con­tact po­lice if items marked with stick­ers come in­to their shops.

“Most of the people do­ing burg­lar­ies are people with ad­dic­tion prob­lems. They’re not tak­ing it for them­selves,” Cough­lin said. “They’re go­ing to sell it and get high.”

Cough­lin said the ini­ti­at­ive isn’t a dir­ect re­sponse to in­creased burg­lar­ies in the 26th, but something the city has been work­ing on for a while.

“This is something we thought was a good idea,” he said.

Oth­er ex­ist­ing pro­grams the dis­trict will dis­cuss on Dec. 17 are S.A.V.E. and B.O.N.D.

S.A.V.E., the Stolen Auto Veri­fic­a­tion Ef­fort, provides car own­ers with a stick­er for the auto­mobile that alerts po­lice to pull the car over if it’s seen on the road between mid­night and 6 a.m., if its own­er doesn’t typ­ic­ally drive between those hours.

B.O.N.D., the Busi­ness Own­er No­ti­fic­a­tion De­tail, is in­ten­ded for busi­ness own­ers to re­gister their per­son­al con­tact in­form­a­tion with the de­part­ment. That way, if there is a burg­lary at an own­er’s busi­ness, po­lice can quickly get in dir­ect con­tact with the in­di­vidu­al. Even if the own­er has an alarm sys­tem, Cough­lin said, po­lice can some­times find it dif­fi­cult to con­tact an own­er. Un­der B.O.N.D., he said, get­ting in touch would be much easi­er.

Op­er­a­tion ID stick­ers already are avail­able for any­one wish­ing to re­gister with the pro­gram.

Neigh­bors can vis­it the 26th between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to re­gister or learn more at the Dec. 17 meet­ing from 6 to 8 p.m. at dis­trict headquar­ters, E. Gir­ard and Mont­gomery av­en­ues. Po­lice of­ficers Leslie Po­males and Anna Mae Law are also run­ning the Op­er­a­tion ID pro­gram at the dis­trict. Cough­lin lis­ted some oth­er tips to pre­vent burg­lar­ies and theft, in­clud­ing: al­ways lock your doors; don’t place mer­chand­ise boxes (TVs, gam­ing sys­tems) on the side­walk in plain sight for trash col­lec­tion — crush the boxes and put them in trash bags; don’t leave GPS sys­tems or laptops in sight in your car, and even wipe away the suc­tion cup marks from GPS sys­tems on the in­teri­or wind­shield.

“Stay friendly with your neigh­bors best you can,” Cough­lin said. “Look out for each oth­er.”

Con­tact the 26th Dis­trict Crime Pre­ven­tion Team at 215-686-3260 for more in­form­a­tion, or vis­it ht­tp://www.philly­po­­tricts/26th.

Star Man­aging Ed­it­or Mi­kala Jam­is­on can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at mjam­is­

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