Posted at: 11/08/2012 11:36 PM
Updated at: 11/09/2012 10:03 AM
By: Dan Levy
COLONIE - Secondhand dealers are getting credit for delivering a firsthand blow to an alleged interstate jewelry theft operation. As of Thursday night, only one woman has been charged so far, but it's not known if anyone else is involved.
Soon after an Oct. 22 burglary in West Stockbridge, Mass., police in that community, suspecting that the stolen items might be taken across the state line into New York, notified the Albany County Dealers Association to be on the look out for some very unique and expensive jewelry.
Jason Pierce, president oft he ACDA, received some photographs of the stolen jewelry from police and distributed the pictures to about 100 of his members.
"Within 24 hours we received a phone call from Olde Saratoga Coin that identified a ring that appeared to be the ring that had been stolen and upon further examination, it most certainly was," Pierce stated.
As it turns out, the person who allegedly walked into Olde Saratoga Coin on Central Avenue in Colonie, in addition to the half dozen-plus surveillance cameras that took her picture, also presented her driver's license for identification, which made it easy for state police to arrest Alicia Helmer of Albany.
Perhaps coincidentally, Helmer changed her Facebook picture from blonde to brunette just the day before her arrest.
"I think this person drove across the state line thinking, 'I'm going far enough away where nobody is going to know or see me, so it doesn't matter that there's cameras,'" Pierce hypothesized.
Pierce says what happened in this case is exactly what the Dealers Association has been advocating for -- a reverse reporting system whereby police share information with them.
"We don't know if every dealer opens that e-mail and takes a look at that information," Pierce began. "But in this case it happened, it happened quickly and every piece fell into place exactly as it should. Let's face it, when most people fall prey to a criminal like this, they don't get their property back and they never know who did it and they really go on with their life having felt violated, and in this case that's not what happened."
The main reason things turned out so well for the victim, according to Pierce, is because she knew enough to take photographs of her jewelry.
It's not clear at this point if Helmer is the one who actually committed the burglary. So far she's charged with criminal possession of stolen property.
She was able to post $2,500 bail and was released from the Albany County Jail on Nov. 6.
Less than a week from now, the Albany County Legislature is expected to vote on a law that would require all secondhand dealers to record identification information from all their customers and provided it to police. Dealers believe that measure would be too time consuming and point to this case as being more reasonable and more efficient.