ROCKLAND—On November 24, just before Thanksgiving, photographer Jesse Gifford Stuart had just returned from a film class when he had a horrible feeling. The night before he’d just finished shooting a commercial project for Rock City Café and had stowed his digital cameras away in the trunk of his car, or so he thought. In actuality, he now recalls he put two camera cases in the back seat, and left them in an unlocked car. The car was tucked far up into his driveway on Park Street in Rockland, out of sight.
After his class, he searched the trunk, and with a sinking feeling in his gut, knew what had happened.
“There were two camera cases,” he said. “One had all of my still film stuff and the other one had all my digital stuff. The film case was still in the back seat of the car, but the digital case was gone. In my one track mind, I wasn’t even thinking of the possibility that it had been stolen.”
One of the hard top black cases with a stainless rim contained a Canon 7D and a Canon 5D Mark II, as well as several lenses, SD memory cards, a remote shutter release and tripod quick releases.
The other case containing still photography equipment, as well as a film camera was still left in the car.
He filed a police report that afternoon. The equipment, which took him years to acquire, was worth approximately $7,500. It wasn’t a hobby, it was his livelihood. He has had to cease work on his current commercial projects.
“At first, I was in complete denial that this could happen,” he said. “I’ve never had anything stolen before and when I realized what finally happened, I felt angry for a bit, then sad. Now, I’m just trying to figure out what happens next.”
”It was taken for a specific reason, either taken so it could be used or sold quickly,” said Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher. “The first thing people usually do with electronics is to register it online with a warranty. Even if you didn’t write down your serial number, you can always go back to the manufacturer and likely they’ll have it.”
Boucher said the key is getting the serial numbers filed with the police report right away.
“Or if you engrave it somehow and take a photograph of it, that’s icing on the cake,” he said.
Boucher said once they have the serial number of a stolen item, they can run it through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), an electronic clearinghouse of crime data that can be tapped into by virtually every criminal justice agency nationwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“We put in the make, model and serial number of the item so, that way if it pops up anywhere in the country, it will come up stolen,” he said.
It’s an extremely frustrating and disheartening experience to be victimized by theft and even once a police report has been made, one often feels helpless.
We reached out to our community to crowdsource some suggestions on what people can do and where they can search in Maine when something is stolen.
“Even if the person [selling the stolen property] is on Craigslist, they still have to provide proof such as the serial number to identify it,” Boucher said.
Other crowdsourced suggestions of where to look for the item include putting out a notice on all of the buy/sell/trade groups in Maine such as Maine Buy/Swap/Sell, GarageSale, Classifieds.com and local/statewide online yard sale sites such as Portland Yard Sale.
People can also contacting all of the pawn shops in Maine, as well as photography shops. Another online tool, Social Mention, is an online aggregator for user-generated content in real time, which scours keywords mentioned in blogs, microblogs (like Twitter), bookmarks, images and video. Using an advanced search feature with the keywords of “Canon 70” and “Maine,” these results popped up.
Other helpful suggestions included:
- Keep a search saved on eBay (and any other online sellers) for the model number(s), restricted to “Nearby Sellers,” so it will email you whenever any items pop up.
- Pay special attention to ads that don't initially offer a picture. Instead, you might see something like "Pictures available upon request." Then, they might send a photo in a private message if they feel you aren't the owner/victim.
- Another way they might try to unload stolen property is when they list the item they will include a disclaimer that reads "Selling for a friend" which explains any questions about the product they can't answer. It also defers liability for theft as they claim "I had no idea it was stolen.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org