Web Site Auctions Unclaimed Property from Police, Municipalities

New York – For local police departments across the country, unloading unclaimed property can be an arduous and lengthy task.

Now, a slew of law enforcement agencies and even municipalities have been turning to PropertyRoom.com for help.

The brainchild of former Long Beach, N.Y., police detective Thomas Lane, PropertyRoom.com auctions off to the public unclaimed property that was either lost or recovered in busts. The Web site, www.propertyroom.com, has been around for a few years, but just recently got involved with auctioning police cars and municipality surplus like computers and garbage trucks.

“More and more municipalities are asking for help,’’ said PJ Bellomo, chief operating officer at PropertyRoom.com. “These goods don’t belong in the garbage dump, they have value.” While one may think it would be hard to resell a large industrial back up generator, Bellomo said the company had no problem auctioning it off for $45,000.

PropertyRoom.com isn’t like eBay where the person selling has to do all the work. Rather the site will pick up, catalog, authenticate and post the items being auctioned. PropertyRoom.com and the law enforcement agency or municipalities share the profits 50/50. The higher the price tag goes, the more the law enforcement or municipality gets.

Authenticating property that’s recovered in a bust is important to maintaining the Web site’s reputation, said Bellomo. PropertyRoom.com posts as much information as possible on a Web site. And being thorough can even result in a windfall from time to time.

Last year, PropertyRoom.com was going through a bag of costume jewelry and stumbled upon a pear-shaped lock they assumed was glass or quartz. Turned out it was a clean diamond valued at $31,000. It sold on PropertyRoom.com for $23,000.

PropertyRoom.com auctions just about anything you can image from musical instruments, to jewelry, to police cruisers and even sports cars. The Web site has no reserve on most items, with auctions lasting four to five days. Visitors to the Web site vary from individual consumers to businesses that want used equipment. Some of the popular things currently being auctioned include a Hewlett-Packard 37-inch LCD TV, over 100 pieces of brand named clothing and an Apple iBook laptop. The Web site will return property to the original owner if the person sees it online and can prove it is his.

The Web site was borne out of the frustrations and inefficiencies police departments face when getting rid of property that was never claimed. Often times the police department will have to sift through the items, value them and then advertise a public auction, all of which takes time. Not to mention that, with a physical auction, the police department doesn’t have the same reach as a Web site. PropertyRoom.com gets more than 20,000 visits daily.

Sergeant Henry Santacroce Jr., of the Southhold Police Department in New York, said that thanks to PropertyRoom.com the revenue from auctioning unclaimed property has tripled. A customer of PropertyRoom.com for more than three years, Santacroce said using the service was a “no-brainer” for him.

“The audience of people I could sell to was very small, and I was very limited in my time to do this,’’ said Santacroce, noting he has used PropertyRoom.com to even sell unclaimed boats. “They come by, take the stuff and sell it on the Internet. The audience is a hundred-fold of what I would get locally.”

Recently, Santacroce was stuck with 50 lobster pots that PropertyRoom.com was able to quickly sell. “I would never have gotten rid of them,’’ said Santacroce.