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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/14/2013

Legal loot: Police auction confiscated goods now online

BY RONEISHA MULLEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sgt. Ed Mack of the property room with some of the items that will be picked up by propertyroom.com in the future. Sgt. Ed Mack of the property room with some of the items that will be picked up by propertyroom.com in the future.
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Bargain hunters are always on the prowl for a deal — trolling garage sales, thrift stores, and online sites such as Craigslist and Amazon for designer duds, jewelry, and even cars at cut-rate prices.

But what they’ll find at Propertyroom.com is a steal — literally.

Like eBay, Propertyroom.com auctions electronics, clothes, and other items to the highest online bidder. But unlike its forebear, Propertyroom’s inventory consists of items confiscated from criminals by law enforcement agencies across the country, including the Toledo Police Department and more than 50 other agencies in Ohio.

While police auctions have long been a place to find items — sometimes brand new — at discounted prices, the online aspect gives the departments a way to hock the items to a far wider audience than traditional police auctions.

“[Traditional auctions] are a big hassle and they cost the departments a lot of money. You have officers working on something they’re not experienced with and then people don’t show up,” said PJ Bellomo, CEO of the company. “Propertyroom.com [is] open to anybody in the country and you can shop anytime.”

The auction company has more than 30,000 listings a month from more than 2,500 agencies. A typical auction runs three to five days and most items do not have reserve prices, Mr. Bellomo said.

“Whether it’s an iPad or a Rolex watch, we start 95 percent of our auctions at $1 and it goes to the highest bidder,” Mr. Bellomo said.

The Toledo Police Department teamed up with the site in recent years to sell off its found items, unclaimed property, and confiscated goods. Propertyroom is responsible for picking up the items, testing and cataloging them on the Web site, and shipping goods to auction winners.

“It’s a really easy process,” said Sgt. Ed Mack, who runs the TPD property room. “For us, it cuts down on overtime. There’s no overhead and it brings some money back to the city.”

Thousands of salable, confiscated items are transferred from the property room to the online site propertyroom.com, which sells the items and returns the proceeds to the City of Toledo's General Fund. Thousands of salable, confiscated items are transferred from the property room to the online site propertyroom.com, which sells the items and returns the proceeds to the City of Toledo's General Fund.
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Proceeds from sales are split evenly between the city and the Web site. The city’s portion goes into the general fund budget, Sergeant Mack said.

Over the course of its partnership, the city has sold, everything from televisions, computers and video recording equipment, to musical instruments, money counters and jewelry.

“You name it, we get it. Our biggest seller on Propertyroom.com is our jewelry,” Sgt. Mack said. “We recently had a diamond necklace sell for over $2,000.”

The city holds its own annual vehicle auction.

As a whole, the site sells everything from standard fare, such as clothing, electronics and antiques to unique and bizarre items, such as coffins, used colonoscopy machines, industrial size generators and heavy machinery. Confiscated items the site does not sell include firearms and other weapons, ammunition and pornography.

Shoppers can filter search results by the type of item, make and model and even by designer. In-house jewelers and coin experts appraise incoming jewels and collectible coins to insure authenticity.

“We don’t sell counterfeits. If the description says it’s a Rolex, it’s a Rolex,” Mr. Bellomo said. “We destroy counterfeits. And if it’s costume jewelry, we’ll tell you.”

Other Ohio communities partnering with the site include, Findlay, Ottawa Hills, Cincinnati, Bowling Green and Dayton.

Before an item ends up at the auction site, TPS attempts to return the property to its rightful owner. In 2012, the department logged 20,226 items in its property room, of which 2,820 where returned to owners.

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.



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