An online crime-solving tool helped Fort Wayne (Ind.) PD detectives solve a string of residential home-invasion burglaries. The four main suspects in the case were arrested during the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
LeadsOnline, a nationwide online system that records secondhand transactions, kept a record of the reported stolen items and alerted the police when several of the items turned up at a secondhand store. The information led police to one of the individuals involved in the theft ring.
"These cases all had the same M.O.," according to Det. Joseph Lyon, of Fort Wayne PD's Investigative Support Division. "The residents were home when these thefts took place. Since this string of burglaries started in May 2009, I would occasionally get a LeadsOnline result on an item that I could track back to one of those incidents, but it was never the same person."
During follow-up interviews with those individuals, Det. Lyon says he would discover that those people were pawning the stolen items for other individuals. Not suprisingly, those being questioned would not reveal the names of people who have provided them the items to sell.
In September, uniformed officers apprehended an individual involved in the burglaries who named names. And then those other suspects provided the names of other people involved in the theft ring.
Using information provided by those individuals, Det. Lyon turned to LeadsOnline and was able to match items in the system to items sold by these suspects. Through LeadsOnline, Det. Lyon recovered a video camera that was reported stolen in mid-October. Soon afterward, an exact match for a stolen digital camera popped up tying the suspects to burglaries at four addresses.
"These two most recent LeadsOnline recoveries are going to be the key factor in our obtaining a search warrant for the home of the person we believe is the central bad guy in all of this," according to Det. Lyon.
The digital camera that was recovered belonged to a single mother who had family photos still on the memory card that was stolen along with the camera.
LeadsOnline uses a variety of ways to search for stolen property, including serial and model numbers, as well as descriptions. Because the system is an online network that pawn shops and secondhand stores report to, police have real-time access to the information, no matter where the item is sold. If an item is stolen in Fort Wayne and sold across town or across the country, police will be immediately alerted to its location.
Use of the LeadsOnline system was implemented in Fort Wayne in 2008. Pawn shops and secondhand stores upload their transaction information electronically to LeadsOnline, and that allows police to work much faster and across jurisdictional boundaries. There is no cost to businesses to report to LeadsOnline.
"You can't imagine how excited I was when I received the alert from LeadsOnline that helped crack this case," according to Det. Lyon. "We have been using LeadsOnline non-stop in this effort and have been able to trace and recover several pieces of property."