14 News Special Report: Protecting YOUR Property - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14 News Special Report: Protecting YOUR Property

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Every week Evansville Police deal with dozens of theft and burglary reports.

Stolen property isn't always recovered, but even when it is that doesn't necessarily mean the case is solved. That's because in some cases, the rightful owner is never found or just doesn't come to pick up their things.

You may remember a story 14News brought you back in December.  Police showed off hundreds of items they believed were all stolen by one man, Anthony Ulm.  It was an unusual case because of how many items were recovered, but it got 14News thinking.

What else is sitting at EPD Headquarters waiting to be claimed?  And is there anything you can do right now to help if you become a victim of theft later?

This week we checked back in with police on the Ulm case, going back up to the old jail where all those stolen items are being stored.  Despite some progress in reuniting victims with their property, two months later, things don't look all that different.

In fact, Lt. Dan DeYoung, a 25-year-Evansville police veteran guesses about 90% of the hundreds of tools and other items haven't moved.

"There's a good chance a huge portion of it will never be claimed," says Lt. DeYoung.

In this particular case, Lt. DeYoung says that may be because victims were out-of-town contractors.

Likely, they don't even know their things are in good hands collecting dust. But, in general, unclaimed property, police say, isn't unusual.

"A lot of this is traceable, we can find the owner," says Sgt. Jason Cullum. "We've got a nametag on it so we have ways of tracking some of this stuff down," he told us while holding up a military uniform being held in the property room.

That's the best case scenario, but it's not a guarantee. And when things sit in the property room for too long, "we hold onto it for 90 days before it goes in the auction room," says Sgt. Cullum.

Inside the auction room you'll find all kinds of odds and ends, things you'd think people might miss, like purses, TVs, even a full manger set.

"We've replaced it since but I would still absolutely go get it," says Amie Holman, talking about her daughter's stolen iPhone. "At her age, literally she cried for three days."

It was a very expensive Christmas gift she wished would show up on the shelves of the EPD Property Room.

"Just one of those things to a kid, you know, it was a pretty major deal."

Holman says the phone was stolen about a month ago from Swonder Ice Rink.  It was insured, but not for theft.

"For us we knew we were much more concerned about the phone being broken... I never considered it being stolen," says Holman.

"A lot of people in society plan for like a violent crime.  They do things to protect themselves from somebody hurting them, but they don't do a whole lot to protect themselves against property crime," says Sgt. Cullum.

But police say there are things we should all be doing, right now. For example, take the time to find and write down the serial number on valuables like phones or electronics. Another idea, go digital.

"If you can just photograph, especially your high-ticket items, because what'll happen in a police report, it'll just say ‘woman's gold ring', and that's pretty generic," says Lt. DeYoung. "But if it's something specific, and you have a digital photo, that makes our job a lot easier."

Engraving your initials or adding your own marker or label can also help police, help you.

And once something is stolen or even lost, the most important, but sometimes overlooked, thing you can do is file a police report.

"It was worth calling the police and seeing what they could do," says Holman. "Furthermore, we needed them to understand that if these things are happening at these public venues and things like that, we want to make sure the authorities are aware of that. They can't fix something they don't know is broken."

Those items that sit unclaimed long enough will be auctioned off.  EPD says they hold an auction every other year.

Police say the money collected at auction goes back to the city's general fund and the department gets a portion of it.

If you believe some of the stolen items in the Ulm case may belong to you, it's not too late to try to claim them.  You will need to have a police report, though, to move forward in the process.

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