If your household, electronic items get stolen, here's what you need to know for the police

SEATTLE -- Police say they are doing what they can to cut down on the number of property crimes in Western Washington. But they're having problems returning stolen items, and they need the public to help.

Thieves broke into a home in Seward Park in October, and got away with some jewelry and a laptop computer. On Tuesday, Seattle police returned that laptop to the homeowners. They say they still had the box the computer had come in, so they were able to give police the serial number.

Those homeowners went online to share the good news with their neighbors. They also wanted to let them know “write down your serial numbers people!”

Seattle police are happy neighbors are sharing that advice with each other. Because they say they can’t return stolen items if people can't prove they own them.

“A few years ago, we ran our own undercover pawn shop,” says police Capt. Eric Sano. “We recovered 80 bicycles we knew were stolen. I think out of 80, we were only able to return six.”

They say it’s especially tough with electronics, because they all look alike.

“When we serve search warrants, we recover a lot of what we know to be stolen laptops, iPads, and cell phones,” says Sano. “If we find five iPad Airs, we won't know who they belong to. But each one will have an individual serial number.”

Police say people should write down those numbers and keep them somewhere safe.

“There are plenty of Cloud-based programs where you can actually list your items on a secure database.”

“Report It” is a free site run by Leads Online, which is a company that works with law enforcement agencies and pawn shops around the country. Not only can you record serial numbers on the site, you can also upload pictures of jewelry or other items without numbers.

Police say if you don’t record exactly what you own, you may never get it back even if police find it.

For more information, go to reportit.leadsonline.com.