Stolen property sold on social sites

By Alison King

Is it safe to buy secondhand goods on social media sites? Photo / File
Is it safe to buy secondhand goods on social media sites? Photo / File

A Rotorua woman has been left feeling helpless and frustrated after police were unable to help her get back her stolen hard drive offered for sale through a Facebook group.

The use of social media to sell stolen goods has led Labour Party candidate Tamati Coffey to call for a review of such groups. But Rotorua police say although they frequently monitor social media sites for stolen property, people needed to note identifying features such as serial numbers to help them get search warrants.

The 23-year-old, who didn't want to be named, had lent the hard drive to a friend whose home was then burgled. Days later the 2Tb hard drive, which contained thousands of photos from over the years, was offered for sale on Facebook.

"We went to the police station but they said they couldn't do much because I didn't know the serial number and it had no identifiable marks they could see in photos," the woman said. "Case closed."

She said one of her friends tried to contact the seller so they could buy it back but they never got a response.

"I'm really angry and sad that someone could do this. The main thing was losing all my photos - I've got none from my 21st. I didn't back them up. I told the police exactly what was on it but they needed a cause of entry to get it."

She said she had since photographed and recorded the serial numbers of her other electronic items.

Mr Coffey said people had contacted him claiming their stolen property was being sold via Facebook and police were unable to do anything about it.

He said a friend was left feeling helpless due to the information police required to search properties for stolen goods.

"I've had a few people through the office saying they've been burgled and there's nothing police can do," Mr Coffey said. "I never hear the end of it. Everyone has been celebrating them [Rotorua police] getting their new building but I'd like to see more police in the community.

"We need police who are on the job and able to investigate these things. It's not too much of an ask."

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne said three people had recently been arrested as a result of Facebook-related posts and that police actively monitored groups for stolen property.

Police needed to know unique identifying features such as serial numbers that would help them get search warrants to recover property.

Mr Horne said social media was a "risky" marketplace for thieves as it is a public forum.

"People often recognise the property being advertised as being stolen goods," Mr Horne said. "Furthermore, the police do monitor a number of social media forums. We also get a lot of support from the community, with people contacting us about property being offered for sale via social media that they suspect is stolen.

"Police are often identifying offenders and recovering property through social media. [Last week] police arrested three people and recovered the property from a burglary within 24 hours of the crime occurring as a result of the property being offered for sale on a social media site.

"We always encourage people to contact us about suspicious behaviour, whether it occurs in cyber-space or real spaces, such as your neighbourhood."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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