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Online police auction site hawks stolen goods


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Eclectic mix of items for sale

'StealitBack' section has admirable purpose


(CNN) -- A group of ex-cops including former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates has launched an online auction site that sells seized and unclaimed property.

Besides hawking jewelry, stereos, television sets, coin collections and auto parts, allows visitors to reclaim stolen property for free. The site splits proceeds with law enforcement agencies that supply the goods.

"It was set up to help police departments clean out their property rooms as quickly as possible and to generate revenue for them," said Tom Fagin, vice president of the Property Bureau, which manages the site. Of course it helps that the site makes money too, he said.

The site launched nationally earlier this month. Already it has more than 1,800 closed auctions, Fagin said Tuesday.

Eclectic mix of items for sale

Among the items currently for sale: a suitcase full of Wheat Pennies, Indian Head Nickels and Liberty Dimes; a Hewlett-Packard PC and monitor; and an Operation Desert Storm belt buckle.

The Los Angeles-based Property Bureau said the auction arrangement works well for police departments, which find themselves burdened with billions of dollars worth of unclaimed property each year.

Rather than resorting to less lucrative options like tightfisted brick and mortar auctioneers, police agencies can use, which will return between 50 percent and 75 percent of auction revenue, Fagin said.

'StealitBack' section has admirable purpose

The site includes a section with a questionable name but admirable purpose. If visitors can positively identify their stolen goods on the site, they can have it shipped to them at no cost.

"No one has used StealitBack yet, but I think it will be happening down the road," Fagin said.

The auction infrastructure is administered by FairMarket, which operates auction services at major Web sites like the Lycos Internet portal and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN.

Twelve law enforcement agencies in California have signed up. The Property Bureau hopes to increase the number to 120 nationwide over the next year. Big shot board members have helped spread the message.

"Daryl Gates has been invaluable to us. He's well thought of in the police community. That's where he's been our biggest advocate," Fagin said.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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