Knowing what you own can make the difference between getting back your stolen property and never seeing it again.

That’s why the Columbus Police Department is encouraging residents and businesses to begin using a property inventory system known as secure Cloud storage, available at no charge to residents.

ReportIt, an internet-based catalog information company, allows each person to list up to 100 serial numbers, owner-applied numbers, photos or scans of receipts, according to the ReportIt website.

All information is password-protected and is accessed through the same type of connection used for accessing banking accounts online, Columbus Police Det. Lt. Tom Foust said.

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Data is also protected by the same high-level security measures used by financial institutions and government agencies, the company website states.

ReportIt is provided through LeadsOnline, which the Columbus Police Department already uses for rapid electronic access to transactions involved in criminal investigations, Foust said.

With LeadsOnline, police can instantly get data from thousands of reporting businesses across the country that includes scrap metal processors, secondhand stores, Internet drop-off stores, pawn shops and E-Bay listings, the website states.

But since information on the company’s ReportIt service can only be accessed using the client’s username and password, police can’t see what you’ve catalogued until you provide them the information, Foust said.

Police mostly use LeadsOnline to solve property crimes.

How residents use it

A secure Cloud storage such as ReportIt also can be used by families to provide them some degree of peace of mind after a personal catastrophe, said Shannan Hinton, Bartholomew County emergency preparedness director.Typically, victimized people are distraught and it could take days for them to realize what is destroyed, missing or remains intact after a fire or flood, Hinton said.

Although some people catalog their valuables on their computers or portable devises, disasters can either destroy their records or, at best, possibly delay access to the list, Hinton said.

“If the list is stored off-site, you haven’t lost it because you can go anywhere there is Internet service to access the information,” Hinton said. “That’s one less stress.”

Utilizing a secure Cloud service also will help save time during the insurance claims process, State Farm agent Bob Parker of Columbus said.

“It will save you from searching and digging through records and old receipts, or from being forced to go back to the original stores,” he said.

Having a detailed list of valuables is also likely to speed up the time claimants have to wait before they receive compensation, Parker said.

Whether you are a victim of crime or catastrophe, such lists are valuable in determining what’s missing or destroyed, Foust said.

For victims of burglary and theft, ReportIt cuts down the amount of time officers must spend talking to them _ and increases the time invested in looking for the stolen items, the detective said.

Serial numbers of items reported stolen by residents can be matched with information provided by second-hand stores, which may have unknowingly purchased these items from thieves.

“It’s 10 times faster than going out and looking for stolen items in person,” the detective said.

More often than not, thieves and burglars attempt to move stolen items quickly — especially those seeking money to feed a drug addiction, Foust said.

“If we can get this information fast to them (second-hand merchandise buyers), they might recognize the stolen items when they come in,” Foust said.

Although many neighborhood watch group members understand the value of such a service, procrastination is often a factor, said Sheryl Nulph, facilitator for the Historic Downtown Neighborhood Alliance.

“It’s like writing a will,” Nulph said. “It’s just something you table because other things seem to be more pressing.”

How businesses use it

Second-hand retailers Disc Replay in the Northern Village Shopping Center voluntarily participate in the LeadsOnline’s ReportIt service.

When the store at 3009 N. National Road closes each night, a report that lists serial numbers, titles, and all driver’s license information on each person who sold movies and games is sent online to police, store manager Seth Richardson said.

“It’s super easy to do,” Richardson said. “A couple clicks of the mouse, and they get the report.”

On occasion, the store is notified that it has obtained stolen goods, he said. That’s when items are pulled from the shelves and handed over to investigators, Richardson said.

Cities such as Evansville, Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne have ordinances requiring all second-hand buyers, including pawn shops, to report their daily transactions, Richardson said.

Depending on the community, requirements might include thumbprints, electronic signatures, webcam recordings of both the front and back of a seller’s driver’s license, and photographs of the seller on every transaction, Richardson said.

“We’ve explored that concept in Columbus, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Foust said.

Disc Replay decided to voluntarily submit the reports because it’s a win-win situation for all involved parties, Richardson said.

“It’s not going to stop anyone from stealing anything, but it does increase the odds someone will get their stuff back,” he said.

How to sign up

To sign up for the ReportIt service offered free to all Columbus residents:

  • Go to reportit.leadsonline.com
  • Click on “Create New Account”
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.