Serial, model numbers important in getting back stolen items

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Just because Christy Miller could say that the television stolen from her house had a four-inch scratch on it, it didn’t help her in retrieving it.

Police Chief Daniel Grant said serial numbers and model numbers are what are necessary. Distinctive marks only help to a degree.

“If something is stolen or missing from your car or home, with the numbers we can enter them into a LEIN (Law Enforcement Information System) and it goes nationwide,” Grant said.

The problem is that most people don’t record such numbers. Thus, authorities can’t enter the stolen item into the system. So, if the item is recovered in another city, local authorities won’t know it’s ever been recovered.

“The majority of people don’t have the serial numbers,” Grant said.

Bicycles, lawn equipment, phones, televisions, computers and stereo systems are some of the items that people should record, either in writing or photographing the numbers.

“It helps when we try to retrieve the items,” Grant said. “We
would love to return items.”

For items such as jewelry, telling the officer the cut of the diamond isn’t going to help. Without a photo, it is going to be difficult to identify it or stake a claim to it.

However, if a bicycle is stolen in Michigan and the person has a serial number, officers can enter it in the LEIN and they may find it was recovered in Hawaii, Grant said.

“Most stolen items are not recovered,” said Melvindale Police Lt. John Bajorek, with the exception of guns and vehicles, which have numbers registered with the state.

Bajorek said his department has recovered firearms and vehicles as far away as Alabama.

It’s unknown the percentage of stolen items that travel out of the city or the state because most aren’t ever recovered.

“We see it all the time,” Bajorek said, “people have the warranty number but not the serial number. Always record the serial number when you buy something.”

(Tereasa Nims can be reached at