I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: If you're a property crime victim, this one thing will up your chances of getting your stuff back

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Monday, Feb. 25, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock

An electronics serial number could be the difference between finding stolen property and never seeing it again.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A shooting, bank robbery and a murder – we told you about all three last week, but the actual chance of a violent crime happening to you is less than half a percent.

But property crimes? We are 10 times more likely to be the victim of a property crime.

How do you prevent yourself from becoming a statistic?

First, let’s look at the statistics.

According to NeighborhoodScout.com, 1 in 26 people in Augusta are a victim of theft, burglary, or larceny.

Before he became a spokesperson for the sheriff, Sgt. William McCarty worked in property crimes. So, what items are stolen the most?

“Hands down, electronics,” McCarty said.

From March through December 2018, deputies investigated more than 1,700 burglaries and 2,100 thefts in Richmond County.

National statistics show you only have about a 30 percent chance of getting something stolen back. McCarty said there’s a way to protect yourself and raise your odds.

"The biggest obstacle we run into is we can't identify the items once recovered,” McCarty said.

That means investigators don’t have a way to link a stolen item to the owner. In some cases, however, the owner can’t prove it belongs to him.

"I can't tell you the amount of unclaimed property that we have run across the years which couldn't be identified through a serial number,” McCarty said.

A serial number is a unique number or string of characters that identifies a product. Investigators can use them to identify a specific device.

Deputy Shields works the property crimes unit and scans for serial numbers quite often through a database called Leads Online. Leads connects law enforcement agents with pawn shops.

Anytime someone reports something stolen, an investigator will enter the serial number -- if the owner has it -- into the system. Anytime someone pawns something, the pawn shop will enter serial number into the same system.

That's how Greg Driggers, a local pawn shop owner, helped deputies nab a guy last year.

Hopefully you'll never become a victim of theft, but if it happens, this will greatly increase the chances of getting your stuff back. Leads Online isn't just for law enforcement. Anybody can register something they own on here. If it's stolen, investigators can immediately link the serial number to you or vice versa.

"The more documentation you have, the more chance you have if getting it back recovered, and it makes it a lot easier for your insurance company as well,” McCarty said.