#auto auction phoenix
Phoenix police to auction lost, stolen items
by William Hermann – Jun. 24, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
It’s like Moby Yard Sale or Godzilla Swap Meet, stuff almost unlimited, all under the watchful eyes of Phoenix police in a 50,000-square-foot warehouse where more than 1.3 million items are stacked on shelves that reach 25 feet high.
And you can buy some of it this weekend.
A gigantic warehouse in south Phoenix run by the police Property Management Bureau houses the incredible inventory of articles that wind up in the hands of police each year: recovered stolen goods, found items, impounded articles, inmates’ property, lost items, evidence and more.
Lt. Mark Cousins and property supervisor Joseph Kolbeck are in charge of storing, protecting, returning and sometimes sending to auction items from this mountain of goods, which includes jewelry, golf clubs, television sets, fur coats, stamp and coin collections, statues, paintings, cellphones, rugs, chandeliers, shoes, silverware sets, wristwatches, clocks and more.
“We bring in about 220,000 items a year,” Kolbeck said, walking through the cavernous warehouse, watching a forklift operator bring down a bin from on high. “And it’s our responsibility to know exactly where everything is and make sure it’s secure.”
Cousins said employees use a “real time barcode” scanner to account for each item when it comes in, and place it on a shelf where it can be readily retrieved.
“When an officer makes an arrest and impounds evidence, for instance, he or she has to know it can be found quickly to use at trial,” Cousins said. “The bar code makes it relatively easy.”
Some of the items in the warehouse will be destroyed, including all drugs and all firearms not returned to their owners.
Many items are returned to the owners.
“We are exhaustive in our efforts to return things,” Cousins said. “We’ll call on the phone, send letters, we publish in the Business Gazette lists of things we have. we really want to help people get their belongings back.”
Some items must remain in the property room for a considerable amount of time, because they are evidence.
“The oldest item here has been in storage since 1947 and it relates to a homicide,” Cousins said. “And I can’t say what it is.”
But many items are not claimed, and after 90 days can be sold. Every year, about 190,000 items are returned to their owners, destroyed because they are contraband or sent from the warehouse to the auctioneer’s block. Phoenix several years ago got out of the business of “police auctions” and now contracts with Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers to sell property. Proceeds go into the city’s general fund.
Deb Weidenhamer, chief executive of Auction Systems, said her company auctions goods for many law-enforcement agencies, for banks and businesses, and also for several state agencies, including the Arizona Department of Transportation, for which it sells heavy equipment.
“We partner with various businesses and agencies and take a commission on everything we sell,” Weidenhamer said. “The more we sell, the more each of us makes, so we work very hard to sell everyone’s goods.”
Weidenhamer said that of the many police departments her company works with, “Phoenix police are among the best.”
“They run one of the best property rooms in the nation,” she said. “Their room is incredibly clean and well-organized. They know where everything is. It’s an impressive operation.”
Some of the Phoenix property room hoard will be a part of the Phoenix Marathon Auction that will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Auction Systems warehouse in south Phoenix at 951 W. Watkins St.
A visit to the company’s website, auctionandappraise.com. will reveal the rules of the auction, when items can be viewed, how they can be bid for in person and online, methods of payment and pick-up of items.
Weidenhamer said that now and then someone at an auction will recognize something they once owned.
“Sometimes someone says, ‘That was stolen from me!’ and there is a process they can go through if that’s true,” she said. “But most things have had insurance paid on the loss, and when that happens, it no longer belongs to them.”
Weidenhamer says there should be some very good pickings.
“Think about it this way: some of it is stolen property, and if it was worth someone stealing it, it’s probably pretty cool,” she said.