Site cracks down on stolen goods

A new state law enforcement Web site hopes to make Floridians more active partners with police in locating stolen property, wanted persons and missing persons. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which unveiled the site Wednesday (www.fdle.state.fl.us), hopes to put a dent in the theft of personal property, which exceeded $745 million in the first half of this year, said spokesman Al Dennis. He said less than a third of the stolen property was recovered.

"This is the first state in the country to offer this information on a statewide basis over the Internet," said Dennis, adding they modeled the site after a similar system by a Polk County, Fla., law enforcement agency.

Visitors to the state site can find out whether vehicles, vehicle parts, license plates, boats and parts, and guns are stolen. In another month, data about stolen articles, such as appliances, TVs, stereos, and vehicle and boat decals will be made available. By December, the agency hopes to post data about wanted and missing persons.

To find out if a car is stolen, users enter a vehicle identification number, license plate or owner-applied number. If the car is stolen, information about the theft is listed and the user is prompted for further information about the item. Dennis said the user can send an anonymous e-mail tip, which would be forwarded to the appropriate local agency, or the user can call the local agency directly.

Dennis admitted it might be difficult for the public to identify stolen articles, such as appliances, TVs and stereos, because many people don't know those items' serial numbers. But he said he hoped the site would encourage people to make note of such information.

Local and county law enforcement agencies send such data to the state agency, which acts as a central repository for the records, Dennis said. Currently, the agency contains more than 150,000 records of stolen guns and about 74,000 records of stolen vehicles.

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