PROPERTY INVENTORY RECORD

Many people are victims of theft; personal property is stolen and very seldom ever returned. Unfortunately this is a sad fact! The primary reason recovered property cannot be recovered by the owner is that it is not readily identifiable as that specific item in question and not the thousands of similar pieces that were manufactured. There are many ways to identify property as belonging to you but generally this requires a written record or photographs.

The following is a brief description of a property Inventory Record that you can copy from this web site or create yourself with any word processing program or spread sheet on your computer or as in the old days in a ledger book. Regardless the method you choose there are certain data that must be included in order for this specific item to be entered as stolen property in the Law Enforcement Computer System or NCIC (National Crime Information Center). Let’s keep it simple and start off with an item just about everyone has in their home. A television set.

# ITEM MAKE MODEL SERIAL NUMBER COST PHOTO COMMENTS
1 TV SET SONY STV01547 S-3456345 $647.99 YES 54” Flat Screen With Remote
  • #: Refers to the number of the item on the inventory sheet
  • Item: TV Set
  • Make: Sony is the manufacturer
  • Serial number: Every item sold in the U.S. is required to have a serial number, many are a paper tag
  • Cost: This determines the total amount of loss for determination of the type of crime or for insurance purposes
  • Photo: A picture is worth a thousand words great evidence
  • Comments:  Other identifying info, marks, scratches etc. that may help to identify the item.

This information is entered into a law enforcement computer as soon as possible after the theft.  If you have this information on an inventory sheet you can make a copy for the investigating officer or let him/her copy it.  The sole purpose of this information is to catch the crooks and recover your property.

Your inventory list of personal property could easily run to fifty or more entries when you consider, jewelry (photo’s), tools, appliances, guns, fishing gear, camping gear, pets with chips, art, watches, heirlooms, and other objects of value.  Granted it may take some time but then if stolen the chances of you getting the property back is much better.

How does this work in real life particularly with those departments that does not have an ‘ABBEY’ (NCIS)?  Upon completion of the report by the Patrol Deputy the list of stolen property is entered into the computer.  In the meantime a Deputy in a nearby county stops a car for a traffic violation and notices a TV Set in the back seat along with a bunch of stuff.  He checks the serial number of the TV Set and learns it was stolen just recently from your home.  Bingo, he makes the arrest and impounds the car and all the ‘stuff’ in the car.  Most of this property will not be in the computer since the serial numbers were never recorded by the property owner but maybe several items are found from other burglaries.  This is normally the time that a Detective gets involved and inventories all the property and starts checking other cases for similar losses and since this suspect was found in another county, he checks cases in that county through one of Detectives assigned there.

Many times when serial numbers of property are not available a witness may have recorded the license plate of the vehicle involved and or a partial description of the suspect.  The same scenario can be applied again.

Contrary to what you see on TV, the investigation of a crime is not completed and the crook arrested in one hour and convicted before the next show comes on.  It does happen from time to time which results in a bunch of deputies walking around with big grins on their faces.  Normally it can take days or weeks.

Statistically solving a burglary/theft occurs in approximately 10% of the cases filed nationwide.

In communities with Neighborhood Watch, alert neighbors, concerned citizens who protect their homes from crooks and keep good records on their possessions that also have Deputies who are active in the community, knowledgeable of the crime problems and thorough in their investigations the solution rate can be as high as 60%.

Deputies cannot do the job by themselves.  It also takes a good partner, the concerned citizen. Working together we can create a strong team that will keep our communities safe.

Doug Henderson, Retired, Detective Sergeant
San Diego Police Department
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

HISTORY OF THE SHERIFF

Introduction

What is a sheriff? Mention the word “sheriff” and many people’s minds will fill immediately with images of shootouts and gunfights in the Wild West. Such is the power of old movies and television series, which have so magnified the role of the nineteenth-century American sheriff that it is now virtually impossible to think of sheriffs as existing in any other place or time. Most people would be surprised to know that the office of sheriff has a proud history that spans well over a thousand years, from the early Middle Ages to our own “high-tech” era.

With few exceptions, today’s sheriffs are elected officials who serve as a chief law-enforcement officer for a county. Although the duties of the sheriff vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the sheriff’s office is generally active in all three branches of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, the courts and corrections.

The importance of the modern sheriff was stressed by President Ronald Reagan in his address to the National Sheriffs’ Association on June 21, 1984. He said, “Thank you for standing up for this nation’s dream of personal freedom under the rule of law. Thank you for standing against those who would transform that dream into a nightmare of wrongdoing and lawlessness. And thank you for your service to your communities, to your country, and to the cause of law and justice.”

To appreciate the vital function that sheriffs continue to serve, it is useful to become acquainted with the long and diverse history of the sheriff’s office, and how the office has grown and changed over the past twelve centuries.

The Beginning: The Middle Ages
More than twelve hundred years ago, the country we now call England was inhabited by small groups of Anglo-Saxons who lived in rural communities called tuns. (Tun is the source of the modern English word town.) These Anglo-Saxons were often at war. Sometime before the year 700, they decided to systematize their methods of fighting by forming a system of local self-government based on groups of ten.

Each tun was divided into groups of ten families, called tithings. The elected leader of each tithing was called a tithingman.

The tithings were also arranged in tens. Each group of ten tithings (or a hundred families) elected its own chief. The Anglo-Saxon word for chief was gerefa, which later became shortened to reeve.

During the next two centuries, a number of changes occurred in this system of tithings and hundreds. A new unit of government, the shire, was formed when groups of hundreds banded together. The shire was the forerunner of the modern county. Just as each hundred was led by a reeve (chief), each shire had a reeve as well. To distinguish the leader of a shire from the leader of a mere hundred, the more powerful official became known as a shire-reeve.

The word shire-reeve eventually became the modern English word sheriff. The sheriff — in early England, and metaphorically, in present-day America — is the keeper, or chief, of the county.

Under King Alfred the Great, who assumed the throne in the year 871, the sheriff was responsible for maintaining law and order within his own county. However, it remained the duty of every citizen to assist the sheriff in keeping the peace. If a criminal or escaped suspect was at large, it was the sheriff’s responsibility to give the alarm — the hue and cry, as it was called. Any member of the community who heard the hue and cry was then legally responsible for helping to bring the criminal to justice. This principle of direct citizen participation survives today in the procedure known as posse commitatus.

The Office Grows

Originally, tuns had ruled themselves through the election of tithingmen and reeves. Over the years, however, government became more centralized — concentrated in the power of a single ruler, the king. The king distributed huge tracts of land to various noblemen, who thereby became entitled to govern those tracts of land under the king’s authority. Under this new arrangement, it was the noblemen who appointed sheriffs for the counties they controlled. In those areas not consigned to noblemen, the king appointed his own sheriffs.

At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Saxon king Harold was defeated by the Normans — invaders from the country we now call France. The Normans, who did not believe at all in local government, centralized their power. Rule was greatly consolidated under the king and his appointees. More than ever before, the sheriff became an agent of the king. Among the sheriff’s new duties was that of tax collector.

Dictatorial rule by a series of powerful kings became more and more intolerable over the years. Finally, in 1215, an army of rebellious noblemen forced the despotic King John to sign the Magna Carta. This important document restored a number of rights to the noblemen and guaranteed certain basic freedoms. The text of the Magna Carta mentioned the role of the sheriff nine times, further establishing the importance of that office.

Over the next few centuries, the sheriff remained the leading law enforcement officer of the county. To be appointed sheriff was considered a significant honor. The honor, however, was a costly one. If the people of the county did not pay the full amount of their taxes and fines, the sheriff was required to make up the difference out of his own pocket. Furthermore, the sheriff was expected to serve as host for judges and other visiting dignitaries, providing them with lavish entertainment at his own expense.

For these reasons, the office of sheriff was not often sought after. In fact, many well-qualified men did everything they could to avoid being chosen. The law on this point was quite clear — if a man was chosen to be sheriff, he had to serve.

The Sheriff Crosses the Atlantic

When English settlers began to travel to the New World, the office of sheriff traveled with them. The first American counties were established in Virginia in 1634, and records show that one of these counties elected a sheriff in 1651. Although this particular sheriff was chosen by popular vote, most other colonial sheriffs were appointed. Just as noblemen in medieval England had depended upon sheriffs to protect their tracts of land, large American landowners appointed sheriffs to enforce the law in the areas they controlled. Unlike their English counterparts, however, American sheriffs were not expected to pay extraordinary expenses out of their own pockets. Some sheriffs — most of whom were wealthy men to begin with — even made money from the job.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, American sheriffs were assigned a broad range of responsibilities by colonial and state legislatures. Some of these responsibilities, such as law enforcement and tax collection, were carried over from the familiar role of the English sheriff. Other responsibilities, such as overseeing jails and workhouses, were new.

Prior to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the most common punishments for crimes that did not warrant the death penalty had been flogging or other sorts of physical mutilation. When confinement became favored as a more civilized way to deal with criminals, authorities in medieval England introduced the county jail. They began to experiment with other sorts of facilities as well. Among these were the workhouse, where minor offenders were assigned useful labor, and the house of correction, where people who had been unable to function in society could theoretically be taught to do so.

All three of these institutions were brought to colonial America, and the responsibility for managing them was given to the colonies’ ubiquitous law enforcement officer — the sheriff.

As Americans began to move westward, they took with them the concept of county jails and the office of sheriff. The sheriff was desperately needed to establish order in the lawless territories where power belonged to those with the fastest draw and the most accurate shot. Here it is said that sheriffs fell into two categories, the quick and the dead. Most western sheriffs, however, kept the peace by virtue of their authority rather than their guns. With a few exceptions, sheriffs resorted to firepower much less often than is commonly imagined.

The Sheriff Today

In the minds of many Americans, the role of sheriff ended with the taming of the Wild West. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. There are over three thousand counties in the United States today, and almost every one of them has a sheriff. Some cities, such as Denver, St. Louis, Richmond and Baltimore have sheriffs as well.

In the majority of states, the office of sheriff is established by the state constitution. Most of the remaining states have established the office by an act of state legislature. Alaska is the only state in which the office of sheriff does not exist.

There are only two states in which the sheriff is not elected by the voters. In Rhode Island, sheriffs are appointed by the governor; in Hawaii, deputy sheriffs serve in the Department of Public Safety’s Sheriff’s Division.

Because the office of sheriff exists in so many different places and under so many different conditions, there is really no such thing as a “typical” sheriff. Some sheriffs still have time to drop by the town coffee shop to chat with the citizens each day, while others report to an office in a skyscraper and manage a department whose budget exceeds that of many corporations. Despite their differences in style, however, most sheriffs have certain roles and responsibilities in common.

Law Enforcement

Most sheriffs’ offices have a responsibility for law enforcement, a function that dates all the way back to the origins of the office in feudal England. Although the authority of the sheriff varies from state to state, a sheriff always has the power to make arrests within his or her own county. Some states extend this authority to adjacent counties or to the entire state.

Many sheriffs’ offices also perform routine patrol functions such as traffic control, accident investigations, and transportation of prisoners. Larger departments may perform criminal investigations or engage in other specialized law enforcement activities. Some unusually large sheriffs’ offices may have an air patrol (including fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters), a mounted patrol or a marine patrol at their disposal.

Many sheriffs enlist the aid of local neighborhoods in working to prevent crime. The National Neighborhood Watch Program, sponsored by the National Sheriffs’ Association, allows citizens and law enforcement officials to cooperate in keeping communities safe.

As the sheriff’s law enforcement duties become more extensive and complex, new career opportunities for people with specialized skills are opening up in sheriff’s offices around the country. Among the specialties now in demand are underwater diving, piloting, boating, skiing, radar technology, communications, computer technology, accounting, emergency medicine, and foreign languages (especially Spanish, French, and Vietnamese.)

Court Duties

In every state in which the office exists, sheriffs are responsible for maintaining the safety and security of the court. A sheriff or deputy may be required to attend all court sessions; to act as bailiff; to take charge of juries whenever they are outside the courtroom; to serve court papers such as subpoenas, summonses, warrants, writs, or civil process; to extradite prisoners; to enforce money decrees (such as those relating to the garnishment or sale of property); to collect taxes; or to perform other court-related functions.

Jail Administration

Most sheriffs’ offices maintain and operate county jails, detention centers, detoxification centers and community corrections facilities such as work-release group homes and halfway houses. Sheriffs, and the jail officers under their authority, are responsible for supervising inmates and protecting their rights. They are also responsible for providing inmates with food, clothing, exercise, recreation and medical services.

This responsibility has become more difficult as old jail facilities deteriorate and become overcrowded. The mid-1970s brought on an explosion of lawsuits filed by inmates to protest their conditions of confinement. In recent years, however, national and state commissions, along with the courts, have been working together with local authorities to make jails more hospitable and humane.

This effort has brought sheriffs and jail officers into partnership with judges, district attorneys, and corrections officials. As jail conditions improve, sheriffs and their departments are earning increased respect and recognition as professionals.

THE EARLY DAYS OF AMERICAN LAW ENFORCEMENT

NATIONAL POLICE WEEK 2017

The Watch

More than 350 years ago, America’s first known system of law enforcement was established in Boston. As soon as colonists had settled there in 1630, local ordinances had allowed for constables to be appointed. Soon after, in April 1631, the townspeople formed a “watch” made up of six watchmen, one constable, and several volunteers who patrolled at night, walking the rounds.

Initially run by a combination of obligatory and voluntary participation, the 17th century watch typically reported fires, maintained order in the streets, raised the “hue and cry” (pursuing suspected criminals with loud cries to raise alarm), and captured and arrested lawbreakers. Constables had similar tasks, which included maintaining health and sanitation and bringing suspects and witnesses to court—frequently for such conduct as working on the Sabbath, cursing in public places, and failing to pen animals properly.

In the more rural, sparsely populated areas of the Colonies, the sheriff was the main law enforcement figure. Appointed by the governor, sheriffs’ duties included serving legal documents such as writs, appearing in court, and collecting taxes. In many cases, the sheriff was paid a fixed amount for each task he performed, some, for example, receiving payment based on the amount of taxes they collected. Occasionally, these tasks proved dangerous. In fact, the first known American peace officer to be killed in the line of duty was Columbia County (NY) Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom, who was shot on October 22, 1791, as he attempted to serve a writ of ejectment.

This early policing system was modeled after the English structure, which incorporated the watch, constables, and sheriffs (derived from the British term, “shire-reeves”) in a community-based police organization. (Interestingly, the British system developed from “kin policing” dating back to about 900 A.D., in which law enforcement power was in the people’s hands, and they were responsible for their families or “kin.”) Early law enforcement was reactionary, rather than pre-emptive—the watch usually responded to criminal behavior only when requested by victims or witnesses. And, with monetary incentive in certain areas, apprehending criminals was not always a priority.

Change, Change and more Change

As word spread about Boston’s watch, other colonies began establishing their own. New York (then the Dutch colony New Amsterdam) established a rattle watch in 1652. Before whistles, law enforcement used wooden rattles and their distinct noise to signal for help, even into the 19th century.

Into the 1700s, more people settled in towns and more shops and businesses were built, which meant more work for the watch. Seaports bustling with sailors and overseas trading ships boosted the merchant class economy but also caused unprecedented social problems that affected law enforcement. Taverns were built to entertain sailors in port cities, and public drunkenness, brawls, and prostitution became more common. As police work became increasingly time-consuming and difficult, fewer men volunteered for the watch and many evaded their mandatory duties. Issuing fines to those who didn’t show up only punished the poor—those who were most unable to pay. To curb this, some towns and cities instituted a paid watch.

In 1749, Philadelphia passed a law that restructured the watch in an attempt to solve these problems. Now, officials called wardens had authority to hire watchmen as needed. Their powers were increased, and a tax paid the watch. All male citizens were no longer obligated to work when summoned, and only men interested in the paid job applied. Philadelphia’s reform was not the ultimate solution, but it fueled progress and inspired others to make similar improvements.

Even with positive developments like these, the Colonial law enforcement system still required drastic change. During the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, the number of factories, buildings, and people surged substantially. New York, for example, jumped from a population of 33,000 in 1790 to 150,000 in 1830. The overall boom in industrial growth and overcrowding brought more crime, riots, public health issues, race and socio-economic divisions, and general disorder.

The “New” Policing System

The solution? A new and improved law enforcement system implemented first by England in 1829: a stronger, more centralized, preventive police force, designed to deter crime from happening, rather than to react once it had occurred.

In 1833, Philadelphia organized an independent, 24-hour police force. In 1838, the Boston Police force was established, with a day police and night watch working independently. New York City followed suit in 1844, becoming the New York City Police Department in 1845. Police departments were now headed by police chiefs who were appointed by political leaders. While it still had its flaws, this “new” method of policing more closely resembles a modern day police force.

The story of American law enforcement, from its early roots to the present day, will come alive inside the Museum. Stories like this one will help visitors understand how law enforcement has changed to coincide with changes in American society. Today, new technological advancements, scientific discoveries and comprehensive research aim to improve law enforcement’s efficiency by introducing innovative techniques, equipment, training, and more. Who knows what the future of policing will hold?