Trackmole helps police reunite owners of stolen gear

Trackmole helps police reunite owners of stolen gear »Play Video

RENTON, Wash. -- When Renton police officer Shawn Tierney heard the story of a retiree who had expensive equipment stolen from a shed by some suspected drug users, he immediately wanted to help. 

When he asked if she had the serial numbers to the equipment, she said no and that she had just shredded them in preparation of a move.

"That just reinforced this idea to help people find their stolen property," Tierney said.

Using his own money, he worked with a developer and came up with TrackMole, a free web-based service that helps recover stolen or lost property by using serial numbers. Think of it as a virtual lost and found that can be used by law enforcement and the general public.

"What's plagued law enforcement is the disconnect between property owners and their property," Teirney said. 

He says estimates show less than five percent of owners record serial number of their property, which is the main identifier police use to locate and return stolen or lost property to its rightful owner.

To succeed, TrackMole will need public and police participation. Users can create a free account on TrackMole.com and register items of value with their serial numbers. Keeping a log of important possessions is something insurance companies have been advocating for years. TrackMole's online tool essentially does just that.

User's just need to provide a name and a valid email address. Police agencies that recover stolen or lost property could contact the owner quickly if the items were registered on TrackMole.com. Police can message the owner as soon as the items are recovered.  It could also provide valuable evidence to a police at the scene of a theft.

"So if I'm in immediate contact with an arrestee and they are telling me no, this is my Apple iPad, I already know this belongs to a guy named Mike Smith," Tierney said. "It's a complete game changer for law enforcement across the board."

Good Samaritans could use TrackMole to let users know their registered items have been found. For example, if someone were to find a laptop at an airport, the finder could enter just the serial number onto the TrackMole website. If the item had been registered with TrackMole, the finder could initiate a message to the owner that it's been found and how it can be recovered.

Teirney says the website will not sell its information to third parties and there are protocols in place protecting users from being spammed by people claiming to have found lost equipment.

Police agencies in Renton, Tukwila, Kent, Federal Way and Auburn have pledged to use the system. The City of Renton says its committed to put all city operated equipment into the TrackMole database. Teirney says the free service will be supported by web based ads and eventually a premium service that will offer pictures.

As for Tierney, he plans to quit his day job as a police officer and devote a fulltime effort into TrackMole as its founder and CEO.