Nearly every day of the year, the Mentor Police Department takes custody of various property items owned by area residents, visitors, and / or businesses. This property can be in the form of evidence, or lost and unclaimed personal property.
Evidence consists of items which come into the department’s possession in relation to a criminal investigation, and can take many forms. Evidence can be photographs, items used in the commission of a crime, documents, bodily fluids, hairs, fibers, weapons, clothing, and even automobiles. Evidence is required to be maintained securely throughout the entire process of a criminal investigation and subsequent court proceeding, some of which may take decades.
Property is any personal property turned over to the police department for safekeeping and ownership identification. Once in the care and custody of the police department, it must be maintained until returned to its owner, or disposed of according to law.
The main goal of Property & Evidence is to provide a safe and secure location for all items turned in to follow a strict chain of evidence. The unit strives to give quick and efficient service to both the police department and the general public. Nearly daily trips are made to the Lake County Crime Lab in order to eliminate any delay in processing the evidence collected. The unit can occasionally receive evidence that taxes their storage capabilities and requires creative methods of handling. Two extreme examples over the last several years were, the entire content of a local massage parlor, and a chop shop that specialized in stolen trucks, including several semi tractors.
In 2009, the property & evidence unit handled over 4,600 pieces of evidence. These items were all tracked as to which officer turned in the items, the associated case number, the date and time that the items were turned in, and the location they were stored in. Any movements of the items are tracked, such as those transported to the lab for analysis, signed out for court, returned to owner or destroyed. This strict tracking establishes and insures the chain of evidence.
When items are no longer needed as evidence they are either given back to the owner, destroyed if illegal, or sold at the annual city auction. Each and every item, whether property or evidence, must be strictly accounted for. Periodic audits are conducted to insure that the integrity of the unit and the property stored is at its highest level.
Scheduling and organization of the city auction is an event that takes much preparation for the unit. Every item, usually numbering in the hundreds, must be inventoried and tracked to insure that it is eligible for disposal in this manner. Many citizens take advantage of this yearly sale to pick up various items at bargain prices.
Property & Evidence handles the state of the art Key Scan system that helps secure the building. The system allows limited access to sensitive areas and reporting software that can track all access gained and denied to these areas. The Key Scan cards can be turned on and off and access changed in a matter of minutes via computer, thereby eliminating the need for costly lock changes.
The unit also tracks City owned property and equipment used by the police department. All speed measuring devices must be professionally calibrated yearly and the unit schedules this service. Radios and walkie-talkies in need of repair are sent to the unit and sent out as needed. Surplus police uniforms and equipment are stored and distributed as needed.
This unit annually handles thousands of dollars, nearly a hundred guns, and narcotics of every variety. There can be no compromise in the security of these items and the integrity of the unit. Police Property Management Technician James Soulsby and Technician John Vargo have proven that they are worthy of the trust needed to run this department in the most efficient manner. Through their work, evidence will continue to be properly documented for acceptance by the court system, and individuals can be assured that property will be returned to the rightful owners whenever possible.