Pilot program will help recover stolen goods, region-wide
A pilot program in Ocean County is creating a unified system for police departments to search for stolen items.
"What happened in Ocean County is different police departments have different programs and didn't all speak the same language; now they're all going to be on the same page," said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato.
The pilot program, which is expected to be fully implemented by 2015, allows municipalities to pass ordinances requiring pawn shops, cash for gold stores, scrap metal yards and electronic resellers to input detailed descriptions and photos into the Regional Automated Property Information Database, or RAPID. All police departments in the county will have access to the database. The program also searches eBay and Craigslist for key words within a certain time frame.
Departments will be able to communicate with one another and officers will be able to search hundreds of shops instantly.
"It used to be you get a description of the jewelry and you'd have to go to every pawn shop in the general area, Atlantic City, or Monmouth County to try and find it. If you went on a Tuesday and the thing didn't have to be pawned until a Wednesday, you'd have to go back," said Thomas Preiser, Harvey Cedars police chief and president of the Ocean County Police Chiefs Association
In addition to police departments in Ocean County, the system is used by 17 other police departments in New Jersey, including Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Township, as well as Maryland and Delaware.
Store owners will be have to pay for the software, but Coronato said it's relatively inexpensive and municipalities may pay for it if they wish.
Authorities said shops will be held responsible for making accurate descriptions of items with photographs, and will face legal ramifications for failing to do so. The penalties will be based on each municipality's ordinances. The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office will be following up to make sure stores are complying with the program.
Authorities hope the program will be another tool used by the county to fight the heroin epidemic in New Jersey, preventing addicts from obtaining money through stealing from loved ones.
"Hopefully what we'll do is brand this in Ocean County, everyone will see this is the right way to go and how to do it, and hopefully it will spread to Monmouth and Burlington [Counties} and there will be a regionalization," Coronato said.