The Philadelphia Police Department’s Southwest Division has launched an anti-burglary program in four local districts, including Penn’s.
The program, called Operation ID, has existed nationally for more than 30 years, but this will be its first implementation in Philadelphia. It allows law enforcement to identify and return stolen or lost property to individuals more easily. The program was initiated by Southwest Division’s Burglary Task Force, which was created last year.
Once registered with the program, residents mark their property with an identifying number and display an Operation ID decal. This discourages theft and makes it easier for stolen or misplaced property to be returned to the rightful owner.
“A lot of times, we’ll stop suspicious people, and they’re never going to say they stole [an item]. They’re going to come up with a story,” Southwest Division Inspector Dennis Wilson said. “We put a lot of time in investigating and trying to reunite the item with the owner, and sometimes we can’t. This will help us do that.”
Operation ID will function like Penn’s CampusExpress Property Registration program, which allows Penn students, faculty and staff to register their bicycles online with Penn Police.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said Operation ID allows local residents who have no affiliation with Penn to participate in the program.
Rising College sophomore Matt Hanessian feels reassured that Operation ID will deter potential burglars. “It certainly doesn’t hurt me. If it scares criminals, then it makes me feel safer,” he said.
While Rush and Penn Police Chief Mark Dorsey lauded the PPD for launching the program, they both said they would prefer the Penn community to continue using CampusExpress Property Registration.
“Our program is very different in that it is for one community. It is run through a database by CampusExpress,” Rush said. “[Operation ID] does not have a database.”
Dorsey added that “one of the advantages of our program is we take serial numbers down. And you can contact us even if you don’t know your serial number.”
Rush said if someone is caught with an item that may be stolen, Penn Police is then immediately able to check a database to see if it is registered to that person. If it is not, “we would then have enough probable cause to bring them in,” she said.
DPS plans to strongly advertise the benefits of property registration during New Student Orientation this year through lectures to incoming freshmen.
According to Rush, Operation ID will probably not have a major effect on Penn crime numbers. However, she maintains there will be residual positive implications of the program on the Penn community.
“If the Philly police apprehend a thief, that’s one less thief that will come into our area,” she said.