Peninsula police departments connecting residents with lost items via Pinterest 

  • courtesy of Redwood City Police Pinterest
Police departments in San Mateo County are taking to social media to publicize troves of lost or stolen goods in hopes of getting them back to their original owners.

On a Pinterest page operated by the Redwood City Police Department, images of rare coins, bowling equipment, power tools and vintage postage stamps bearing the face of former President Richard Nixon are among the recovered loot inventoried. Jewelry and bicycles abound the collection.

“We usually put stuff up there that’s unique that we think might be traceable,” Redwood City police Lt. Sean Hart said. “It’s a unique item or a valuable item that we haven’t been able to track through conventional means.”

The page’s development last year was inspired by the Mountain View Police Department’s use of Pinterest as well as other websites, such as, that law enforcement agencies nationwide use to list recovered vehicles.

Police hope that more efficient matching of property with victims may help tie up loose ends on ongoing investigations and reduce the quantity of seized items in storage. Allied agencies without sites of their own can also post on Redwood City’s page.

Going digital may make the traditional viewing events — where victims visit the precinct to peruse an array of recovered goods that might or might not belong to them — a distant memory.

“In the past, we’d call victims of robbery and have them come into the station,” Hart said. “There were so many victims and so much property.”

Late last year, a large haul of goods was posted on the site after the what was called the PetSmart home burglaries, in which an employee at the San Carlos store’s PetsHotel allegedly raided the unattended properties of residents who had boarded their animals while traveling out of town.

“A lot of time with these burglaries, people won’t know what they’re missing,” Hart said.

Online pictures have helped jog victims’ memories as at least two PetSmart victims have gotten their jewelry back through the site, he said.

The San Mateo Police Department launched its own Pinterest page this month after a similarly bountiful bust.

“Pinterest captures a certain demographic that’s a little bit different than our standard demographic,” San Mateo Sgt. Dave Norris said. “They tend to be focused towards females, adult females, which may or may not be the same people we have when we send emails to our neighborhood watch block captains.

“It’s a really good, robust platform for things like property where you have a picture of something and someone can go on there and recognize it.”

To claim something spotted on Pinterest, community members will have to supply a police report documenting the theft and also some proof of prior ownership, such as a photo, an insurance appraisal, a detailed sketch of the item or a description of a flaw or inscription.

The San Mateo Police Department is also urging residents to record information about their not-yet-stolen valuables on, which would make it easier to identify and return them later, should they fall into the wrong hands.

In San Francisco, police have been ramping up efforts to combat bike thefts, launching a citywide bicycle registration effort Feb. 13, and compiling information about stolen cycles on Twitter under the @SFPDBikeTheft handle.

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S. Parker Yesko

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