ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Police Department's Property Control Unit is a warehouse packed with televisions, computers, clothing, cell phones, tools and thousands of other items that have been stolen or are being held as evidence in pending court cases.
Some of the items are later claimed by their rightful owners but thousands of others are auctioned off on propertyroom.com, a website started by a former police office in 1999. The site features items from thousands of law enforcement agencies across the U.S.
Propertyroom.com is similar to EBay but the payment system is different. Those who bid must register a credit card number first and the high bidder's credit card is automatically billed. The website keeps a portion of the proceeds and returns the rest to the law enforcement agency. Lt. Van Hobbs, who oversees the Atlanta Police Department's property unit, said money raised from the online auction is returned to the city's general fund.
Hobbs said the property is sold at auction only after it has been in the property unit for 90 days and all attempts to contact the rightful owner have been exhausted. "We do everything we can to find the owner and also advertise in the Fulton County Daily Report before we send it to propertyroom.com," he said.
Each listing on propertyroom.com indicates the condition of the item. Some fine jewelry pieces even have appraisals.
Sales are final in most cases.
Hobbs said if a crime victim spots their own stolen property on propertyroom.com and can prove it, it will be returned to them. The website also has a section where people can register the serial numbers of their computer, television and other household items. That way if their items are stolen and later end up on propertyroom.com the company will return them.