Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney had to do some quick math in his head.
"I know we're going to have some personnel savings," he said. "This may take me a minute."
A short time later, Raney estimated that the department he has run since his 2005 election would realize $4,000 in annual personnel savings by outsourcing the auctions of unclaimed stolen and found items. Additionally when the department ships its items, which is already under way, to propertyroom.com, the agency will require less space to house thousands of bicycles, jewelry and electronic gadgets that law enforcement seizes each year.
"Most importantly, our returns should improve dramatically," said Raney. "Think of it. Right now, we're holding local auctions where about 100-150 people show up. Propertyroom.com says it has 1.5 million potential online bidders."
But not every stolen item will be sent.
"We won't be shipping any weapons of violence," he said. "No firearms, knives, baseball bats, anything used in violence. Once a year, we bring in registered dealers of firearms and we'll sell them the guns, but once we're completely done with them as evidence, the other items are destroyed."
Propertyroom.com calls itself "the Ebay of the evidence world." The website will seem familiar to anyone who has previously bid on Ebay--precious gems, musical instruments, electronics and hundreds of vehicles are being auctioned off with minimum bids as low as $1 and auctions lasting a day or two. In fact, a number of law enforcement agencies use propertyroom.com to auction off old police or fire vehicles.
When bidding, customers won't know where the stolen items came from. All of Ada County's unclaimed stolen items will be integrated with the tens of thousands of other items that come in from more than 2,800 police departments, including agencies in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Propertyroom.com doesn't charge an administrative fee to handle the auctions. Its profit margins come from a tiered system that allows it to keep a percentage of the winning bid.
"But they'll never charge more than 50 percent on any one item," said Raney. "We'll be making a much higher percentage of the winning bid on most of our items and, of course, they'll be in front of more than 1 million people."
Raney said there's good reason to trust the viability of propertyroom.com. It was founded by former police officers.
"They're rated A-plus by the Better Business Bureau," he said.