Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses to Stolen Goods Markets

The table below summarizes the responses to stolen goods markets, the means by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they should work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.


General Considerations for an Effective Response Strategy
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
1 Adopting a comprehensive approach to stolen goods markets It reduces both the supply and the demand for stolen goods ...it's based on known effective practices It can be difficult to maintain a focus on stolen goods markets as opposed to the traditional focus on original thefts
2 Establishing and sustaining multiagency partnerships It improves communication and coordination among key responders … working groups coordinate activity and maintain focus, and written protocols establish clear responsibilities and authority Partner agencies can have differing priorities and goals; large partnerships can be difficult to manage and sustain
3 Improving investigations of stolen goods markets It increases the risks of apprehension to offenders … detectives and officers are open to changing conventional investigative practices It may require additional resources to devote to stolen goods markets
Specific Responses To Reduce Stolen Goods Markets
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
4 Regulating and inspecting pawn- and secondhand shops It increases offenders' effort to sell stolen goods and their risk of apprehension … merchants can comply with regulations relatively simply and efficiently, and police enforce regulations consistently and fairly It may require new legislative action requiring careful police justification; it may require merchants to buy new computerized records and data sharing systems; it may require additional police investigative resources
5 Conducting reverse-sting operations It promotes greater compliance with regulations restricting the purchase of stolen goods … police conduct them regularly but at unpredictable intervals, and they focus them on problematic locations It may require additional investigative resources
6 Conducting publicity campaigns to discourage buying suspected stolen goods In conjunction with wider anti-fencing initiative it reduces the demand for stolen goods and increases offenders' efforts to sell them … they are carefully designed and tested before full implementation It can waste resources if it's ineffective or backfires by encouraging more offending; it can be expensive
7 Encouraging those who facilitate stolen goods markets to report thieves and fences It increases offenders' risk of apprehension … informants are provided adequate incentives to provide information and safe avenues to do so It can increase informants' risk of intimidation or retaliation from offenders
8 Closing down fencing operations It increases offenders' efforts to sell stolen goods and reduces the wholesale demand for them … police shut down a sufficient number of-or sufficiently large-operations It requires careful and perhaps resource-intensive investigations
9 Seizing assets connected to stolen goods markets It denies offenders the rewards of trading in stolen goods … antifencing operations have sufficient assets on hand to deter future offending Some state asset-forfeiture laws are restrictive and difficult to enforce
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
10 Conducting traditional anti-fencing sting operations     It can have the unintended effect of increasing local demand for stolen goods
11 Improving systems for disposing of recovered stolen goods     It is unlikely to reduce theft or stolen goods trading; it may be too resource- intensive
12 Promoting property-marking schemes     Thieves tend to steal and consumers tend to buy even marked property. When police presence returns to normal, crime rates rise to previous levels.