Bust And Buy

010206 property room
It's been months since someone broke into your house and made off with the silverware you inherited from your grandmother.

You called the police and they investigated.

But you can't help thinking that somewhere out there, somebody's enjoying the knives and forks that should be in your dining room.

It might be true, but it's just as possible that they're sitting in a police warehouse somewhere, gathering dust after being seized in a raid nowhere near your home.

Thanks to the new Web site StealItBack.com, it's now possible to go online and search for stolen property that wound up being confiscated by police officers who don't know the names of the legal owners.

Tens of thousands of police and sheriff's departments nationwide each year collect and dispose of billions of dollars' worth of confiscated and unclaimed property.

It's a major headache for the police departments, according to Daryl Gates, former chief of the Los Angeles police department and currently senior adviser to StealItBack.com.

"This is a task for police departments. They have to manage the property. They don't like to do it," explains Gates, who says police turning over the job to their Web site can save money on manpower and the cost of warehouse space.

In an interview on the CBS News Early Show, Gates says the site provides a registry for rightful owners to claim their property.

Unclaimed property is auctioned off online once the waiting period specified by law - which varies from state to state - has expired.

The site then gets a cut of the purchase price, with the rest going to the police department that was storing the property.

"We've been all over the nation," says Gates. "Every (police) chief I've talked with says, 'Hey, we'd love to do this!' I think we'll find every police department will do it ultimately."

The site's backers are also hoping bargain-hunters of all kinds will log on, to buy everything from jewelry and high-tech items to bicycles and yes, even a kitchen sink.

"We have collectibles, baseball bats, baseball cards, a Beatles collection, Iron Maiden CDs, a Batman comic book, and an all-star collection from 1961," says site founder and CEO Thomas Lane, of the wide range of items ready for auction.

As for the price, it's like any auction - it might be a steal - and it might not.

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