By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
If it looks like a steal it probably is
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

Do you have $63.80 you can toss into a garbage disposal and flip the switch on for every member that's in your household?

That's $255.44 for a family of four.

As residents we lose that much per typical household each year to thieves.

The value of stolen goods among all of the incidents reported to one Valley town's police department in 2015 came to $4,769,500. Some 42.9 percent of that was recovered but that doesn't mean it made its way back to its rightful owner since much property stolen doesn't have identifying marks.

Even if we don't suffer a loss, we may unwittingly be making it profitable for thieves to prey on our neighbors. Stolen goods ultimately need to be converted into cash. True, there may be some horse trading such as an iPad for pot but for the most part criminals need money not 66 weed eaters.

And how do they convert what they steal into cash?

If you watch enough crime shows, you're probably convinced pawn shops are the ATMs for thieves.

Besides the fact they are regulated, there is only so much room in a store and only so many used weed eaters a pawn shop can expect to sell.

So how do you turn pilfered weed eaters into cash? The places where everybody goes looking for a bargain with no questions asked - flea markets and yard sales.

To be absolutely clear, this in no way implies the vast majority of flea markets or yard sales are run by criminals. But the thieves that commit thousands of misdemeanor thefts - in addition to thousands in felony thefts such as auto and residential burglaries and stealing vehicles - have to get cash for their ill-gotten gains from somewhere.

Back in 1995, I was told of a weekly garage sale where the guy had "tons of dog igloos" for sale. I happened to be looking for one.

So one Saturday morning I stopped at his sale that happened to be taking place four blocks from the Police Department. The guy had a lot of stuff including 14 dog igloos.

Something didn't look right. There were just three types and they all looked new.

The "homeowner" approached me and asked if he could help. I asked how he managed to come across so many new dog igloos. His reply was fairly specific. He said Walmart sold them to him because they had been damaged. He quoted some prices and I said I'd think about. I looked at them closer. I could find nothing wrong. And if they were new, wouldn't he have wanted to keep the stickers and other "packaging" that the manufacturer put on them to emphasis the fact they were new?

I opted not to buy one. A couple weeks later I happened to mention the dog igloo guy and his address to a community service officer. He indicated he was a person that they suspected was essentially selling stolen goods but couldn't prove it adding that he had a sale practically every week.

It was a ‘duh' moment.

Years prior Roseville Police had a huge sweep of garage sales conducted on a Saturday along Main Street. They recovered about $4,000 worth of stolen items from residential burglaries that the owners were able to identify including one family where a quarter of their belongings from furniture to clothing was taken.

Main Street - along with Atkinson Street - were always lined with garage sales on the weekends. That's because back in the 1980s that was the main way to reach what is billed as Northern California's largest flea market - Denio's Farmers Market & Auction. I just thought people were being enterprising taking advantage of the readymade traffic.

The police explained most were on the up and up but a handful weren't. They even indicated they made it a point once or twice a month to have undercover officers look for specific stolen goods among the garage sales and even at Denio's. They added legitimate yard sales tend not to have numerous copies of a particular item for sale and the stuff wasn't "too nice" or looked out place for the home where it was being sold.

Again, thieves swiping low value items under $300 have to convert them to cash somehow.

I will never buy a weed eater, for example, from a flea market who happens to have a couple dozen of used ones. The odds are he bought them for a song from someone who stole them. Most people tend to use their weed eater until it becomes inoperable. Given the price of new ones they aren't exactly something you'd rehab and resell.

I use weed eaters as an example because of another "duh" moment.

I was heading home from work a few years back at 2 a.m. when I passed a guy on a bicycle who was lugging a weed eater. I thought nothing of it until I got home. Obviously people do not cut weeds at night.

When I mentioned it the next day to a police officer noting I should have called when I saw it, he agreed it probably was stolen but since I hadn't seen the individual take it officers couldn't have done much as there was no proof it was stolen.

The bottom line is we all make crime possible to so degree whether it is not thinking when we see something questionable, leaving stuff out for easy pickings such as a bicycle on the front lawn or we make it worth their while by unwittingly buying stolen items at a flea market or yard sale.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.