CLEVELAND -- They are thought to be valuable crime-fighting tools -- especially in cases of home burglaries.
But Channel 3 news has found that hundreds of pawnbroker records are stored in boxes collecting dust at the Pawn Unit of the Cleveland Police Department.
Pawn shops are required to identify the customer and describe the merchandise he or she is selling or pawning.
A pawn slip or card is sent to Cleveland police, where it is supposed to be catalogued and ready to access by police investigating buglaries and other crimes.
The source says any victim of a home burglary who is expecting help from the police department's pawn unit is wasting their time.
"The chance of finding your stolen item with the volume of cards that they have is slim to none," said the source.
Jennifer Nickels experienced the frustration first-hand. Her Lake Avenue apartment in Cleveland was burglarized while she was away over the Labor Day weekend.
When she returned home, she noticed her bedroom air conditioner was out of place. She quickly discovered that burglars had ransacked her place, stealing valuable family jewelry and electronics totaling nearly $10,000.
A detective advised her to check local pawn shops for her stolen items, and she followed his advice only to be told by the pawn shops to check with the Pawn Unit at police headquarters.
Channel 3 news has learned the police pawn unit is comprised of one civilian whose job it is to catalogue every pawn slip that local shops mail to her. A police spokesman said the unit receives between 100 and 400 pawn slips a day. surprisngly, the ecods ae not computerized.
After talking with the lone employee, Nickels felt completely frustrated and hopeless.
"I think I would be shocked if they were to call me in the future and say 'We got the guys who did it or we have our jewelry,' " she said.
Police Chief Michael McGrath failed to respond to a request for an interview.
Meyer's source said the record-keeping is too big a job for one employee.
"It doesn't do anybody any good. A valuable crime-fighting tool is not being used," he said.
"I put more faith in myself to find my stuff than I do in the police," Nickels said.