As the victim of a robbery, it’s easy to give up hope that you’ll ever see your stolen property again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone...right?
The , which covers Ditmas Park, wants you to know there’s one way to make it much easier to make sure stolen property ends up back where it belongs.
Etching is the process of getting a unique set of numbers permanently placed on your valuables. The NYPD is using a program they call “Operation Identification” to focus on etching items that are tempting to thieves, such as smartphones, bicycles, and cars.
Each process works a little differently, but the point is the same: to give the police a way to identify what belongs to you if they come across it once it’s stolen.
The best part? It’s free!
If the item you’d like to ID is portable, bring it to the 70th Precinct station house (154 Lawrence Ave. between Ocean Parkway and McDonald Avenue). If it’s a phone or other small electronics, officers will use an invisible Ultra Violet ink to etch a unique identification number onto the device.
The process takes about three minutes, and the officers will mark it in two places (typically either the front or back and somewhere inside). They will also record the serial number. This information is entered into a database along with your contact information, making it easier to return your device if it’s recovered after a robbery.
In addition to the 70th Precinct, small electronics etching is provided for free at the Transit Police District stations at the Columbus Circle, Union Square, and Hoyt/Schermerhorn subway stations.
If you’d like to ID your car, the Crime Prevention Officers will use an engraver to etch a unique visible Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on all of the car’s parts. Thieves, preferring less traceable targets that are easy to sell, will hopefully see the VIN and stay away. If the VIN doesn’t work to prevent the theft, it will help police identify a stolen car as yours, even if it’s split up for parts.
They also offer a less subtle option to potential theives after the car has been etched: a red and white sticker with the words "Warning" and "Stop Thief" along with a note that the car can be tracked by the NYPD.
"If it works as a deterent and someone doesn't get their car stolen, then it served its purpose," said Officer Joseph McGuinness of the precincts Crime Prevention Office.
"All of these services are offered at every precinct citywide," he added.
Don’t want to visibly mark your car? The 70th Precinct also offers Ultra Violet VIN inscription on your airbags.
For bikes, the process is similar. Officers etch a visible ID number on the frame, and they also attach a permanent sticker that says the bike is registered with the NYPD.
Etching and registering your bike makes sure that you’ll be able to reclaim your recovered bike.
If you’re interested in etching, call the 70th Precinct’s Crime Prevention Office at (718) 851-5504 to make an appointment.
Having a community meeting? A group of Crime Prevention officers will happily come to your gathering to do etching there. To inquire about having a Crime Prevention team come to you, contact the precinct's Community Affairs Office at (718) 851-5557.
Zach Haberman contributed reporting to this article