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Lincolnshire Police forced to give untraceable property back to thieves

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 24, 2012

  • Community Safety officer Inspector Phil Baker with just some of the bikes found or confiscated in Lincoln

  • Some of the bikes found or confiscated in Lincoln

  • Some of the bikes found or confiscated in Lincoln

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Frustrated police officers are being forced to give stolen goods back to suspected thieves because they can't prove they have been taken.

Officers admit they are having to hand back likely loot because they can not trace the genuine owners.

Even expensive items, including bikes worth thousands of pounds, are being given back to suspected criminals.

It happens because the law bans police from keeping it without clear proof that a theft has taken place.

Officers say the situation is not new, but that most people will not be aware it happens.

Now, in a drive to urge people to protect their possessions, it is hoped the news will shock more people in to marking up their property.

The head of community safety at Lincolnshire Police, inspector Phil Baker, said: "We will seize items if we suspect them to be stolen. What we then do is try to search to see if they have been reported stolen and if not, we then have to make a decision on whether we give them back. If you can't prove who the bike belongs to, it can go back to the thief.

"I had it with two bikes in the Gainsborough area and I tried to fight tooth and nail to prevent them going back to potential offenders.

"They were worth £2,000 to £3,000 each so were seriously expensive. I even went to a British cycling organisation to try to track the owners.

"It's not what we are out there for. We always urge members of the public to lock their bikes up and secure it with a D-Lock.

"It's not what we want to do but we do on occasion have to return it to those we have taken it from.

"We can try to use the Police Property Act to see if we can retain it but it's very difficult because we need to demonstrate that they do not have a legal right to the property.

"You can literally go into the basement of the police station and there are hundreds of bikes for which we don't have any owners or they are not registered and we'll never be able to trace them.

"From April to December last year, there were 1,800 bikes stolen across the county.

Inspector Pat Coates, who is responsible for Abbey ward, said: "In the south of the city, we recovered a number of mountain bikes and we had to give them back, which it galls us to do.

"It doesn't always happen but sometimes we have no choice. Of course, the poor victim is still missing their property."

Ann Walton, 68, of St Botolph's Crescent, off High Street, Lincoln, said: "Everything seems to be on the criminal's side.

"There seems to be an attitude that 'I won't be burgled' but why should we let the criminals win?

"It's quite simple to get your bike, gardening tools or even your telly postcode stamped."

Sophie Barker, 38, of Boultham Park Road, Lincoln, said: "I can understand where the police are coming from but in this country you're innocent before being proved guilty.

"It's a difficult one. It seems unfair that suspected criminals appear to benefit but I think the police have their hands tied on this one."

Despite the news, burglaries across the county have dropped by 12 per cent since last year, thanks to policing initiatives and communities.

Force-wide, between April 2010 and January 2011 there were 2,063 house burglaries. From April 2011 and January 2012 there were 1,817.

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  • onearmless  |  July 05 2012, 3:55PM

    Skegness123 Why would you want it back when you've had the insurance money?" What a ridiculous statement, if as insurance company can get out of paying out for an item. they will, also if it's of sentimental value the righful owner would want them back even if it's worth £1 or £1million.

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  • Saxilby_Mick  |  July 05 2012, 11:54AM

    @Daco133 All you have to do is provide the police with information to verify where you acquired the items in question. If you sourced them legitimately then this should not be a problem as any reputable dealer would be able to provide duplicate records.

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  • daco133  |  July 05 2012, 12:18AM

    i am having the same problem now Stauffenberg. i have been selling car wheel bearings and abs sensors on ebay since christmas 2011. all of a sudden i get police at me door 2 weeks ago saying they are stolen from a factory 3 mile away and they removed the items from my house and i got interviewed. the items arnt even stolen and the police have now came back and dropped the case with no further action as they cant prove they stolen. thats becase they arnt. and now they wont give me the items back because he said he still believes they are stolen. he said i can only get them back if i prove that they not stolen... im going up police station tomorrow to put complaint in and if dont get them back im going to get a solicitor. what right does he have to say i cant have them back. inm 100% innocent

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  • ernist  |  February 25 2012, 5:28PM

    by skegness123 Saturday, February 25 2012, 4:58PM . "Why would you want it back when you've had the insurance money?" You have, obviously, never had anything of sentimental value stolen. Keep smiling

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  • skegness123  |  February 25 2012, 4:58PM

    Why would you want it back when you've had the insurance money?

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  • ernist  |  February 25 2012, 6:41AM

    I had video recorders stolen. Marked with serial numbers etc. Also engraved rings with special and sentimental wording. I never saw them again. Marking may be an answer, but more police on the beat would be of more help. Keep smiling

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  • Fandal  |  February 24 2012, 9:24PM

    This is why you should make your possessions clearly identifiable.

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  • ernist  |  February 24 2012, 8:32PM

    Council and City news sheets could also publicize these recoveries, as well as the Lincolnshire Echo.I would prefer the Lincolnshire Echo as they are far more regular, even though it is only weekly now. Keep smiling

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  • BarneySBT  |  February 24 2012, 7:23PM

    Why not use a facility such as the Echo to publicise items that have been recovered by the police whereby proof of ownership will reunite the item(s) with the owner. Then of course there is the Lincolnshire Police website that could have its own page(s) of treasures urging the public to visit their site - or has no one at Nettleham thought of that? Instead of the ridiculous situation you nhave as stated above.

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  • ernist  |  February 24 2012, 4:05PM

    Exactly what are the police doing with goods that they then find are NOT stolen. If the police find the goods then it belongs to them unless the owner can prove it is their property - to do with as they so wish. Keep smiling

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