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January 15. 2013 10:38PM

Nashua police want to auction off 90,000 items

NASHUA - The police department is positioned to begin auctioning its evidentiary and found items, which include everything from bicycles and GPS devices to gold jewelry and TV sets.

Detective Andrew Hagen, one of two employees in the property and evidence room at the Nashua Police Department, is proposing to change the city ordinance to allow the department to sell the items through an online broker.

"If we did eBay, we'd have to clean it up, take pictures, put it on the web," Hagen said. "We would have to have a whole division of officers doing that."

Like their counterparts in Keene and Manchester, Nashua police plan to use the online auctioning site propertyroom.com to liquidate the 90,000 or so odd items in its possession.

The huge cache - housed in three rooms Hagen said are nearly the size of Nashua's aldermanic chamber - consists of items found and turned in to the police department.

"It's mostly citizens that find (these things)," he said. "I'm walking down the street I find a wallet, I found a cellphone, I found a bicycle. So they call the police and we have to hold it."

The other items are collected during police investigations.

"A cash register. Somebody breaks into a store, steals a cash register. Now we have the cash register until the case is disposed of," he said. "Once the case is disposed of, we call the store and try to give it back to them."

Hagen said many of the items stem from car break-ins, bringing large numbers of radar detectors, cell phones, radios, "anything that's portable, they'll steal."

Officers are required to put a best-guess value on property as it comes in. If an item is deemed to be worth less than $250, police hold it for 90 days. If it's worth more, they hold it for 180 days before selling or disposing of the item.

If the owner of the property is determined, it can be returned through a court order.

Founded by former police in 1999, Property Room initially provided auction services to law enforcement agencies. According to the company's website, services were later expanded to include other agencies, and over 2,700 law enforcement and municipal agencies across the country have awarded contracts to Property Room.

The company claims to have liquidated almost $50 million in auction proceeds that have been sent back into local communities. Ninety-five percent of the Property Room auctions start with a $1 opening bid.

Property Room has processing centers throughout the country, and the Nashua Police Department would be serviced by the New York center.

The move to online auctioning would relieve police of the responsibility to auction the items, which in previous years was done in tandem with the annual city auction. Hagen said this required a huge effort, something propertyroom.com will take care of.

"They will come and pick up your stuff, so you don't have to worry about moving it somewhere," he said. "We used to have to bring bikes out to the landfill when we ran out of room."

The change is expected to increase the revenue the city raises through unclaimed property, eliminating moving and marketing costs, and opening the goods up to a national market.

The fee structure splits the first $1,000 earned on an auction. Seventy-five percent of whatever remains goes to the agency, and 25 percent goes to Property Room.

Items such as narcotics and guns are destroyed by police.

The board of alderman will take up the issue at its upcoming meeting.

srios@newstote.com


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