Police auctions can be a gold mine


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The bidding starts at $1 and unlike other auction sites, you know who the seller is. Here's a hint, the seller wears a badge.

Behind a screen sits stacks and stacks of police evidence; boxes and bags of items confiscated from crime scenes. Police catalogue the evidence and hang on to it until the case is closed.

Steve McQueen gave moviegoers a glimpse of San Francisco's evidence room in the 1968 movie, Bullitt.

When police are done with the evidence, the rightful owner has about 90 days to come pick it up. If they don't, it's sold at on line auctions like www.propertyroom.com.

"We actually pick all the items up from the police departments. We bring it back up to our processing center and that's where we test them, we do descriptions. We do photographs and we put them up on the site," said propertyroom.com Vice President Harry Brockman.

Buyers who feel an item has been described incorrectly are eligible for a refund.

"Like I said, we stand behind it. We have actual possession of the property. You have to remember we're dealing with law enforcement," said Brockman.

The South San Francisco Police Department figures its sends a couple of boxes a month to propertyroom.com.

The evidence specialist showed 7 On Your Side some of the items going up for auction. They include a decorative knife, a wrench and screw driver, a couple of watches and a car stereo.

Sending items to propertyroom.com makes the city money and saves it the cost of holding its own auctions.

"It would cost too much in overtime because you would have to have officers involved with that," said Linda Dezman from the South San Francisco Police Department.

"It absolutely is a convenience for us. I don't know the expectations when we began this or if we had any. The money goes back to the city," said Sgt. Lyn Tomioka from the San Francisco Police Department.

Proceeds from the sale are split 50-50 between propertyroom.com and the cities. The city gets a little more if the item sells for more than $1,000.

With items coming from 1,600 law enforcement agencies, you can find almost anything for auction on the site. But there's one thing police won't put up for auction.

"We send our guns to destruction once a year," said Dezman.

One thing to keep in mind, shipping charges can add up. Each item you win will be shipped separately and for smaller items, the shipping charges could be higher than the item itself.

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