The public is advised to be careful when buying or selling electronic devices and safely keep the serial numbers. Sgt Clifford Saunders, the designated second-hand goods officer at the Cape Town Central police station, says the police have noted that people are reckless with their serial numbers and do not include them when reporting stolen items to the police. His unit works closely with the second-hand shops. He says Cape Town Central comprises 140 registered second-hand dealerships. They deal in cars, jewellery, cellphones and scrap metals, but some are auctioneers or pawnbrokers. He says during the inspections he realised that most items were not reported as stolen even though the records failed to provide the original owner’s details. Saunders says this made him suspicious.Saunders says serial numbers help with investigations and to recover the item should it be found sold at a second-hand shop. He advises that keeping a serial number safe can be done by either taking photos of serial numbers or writing them down. This applies to all electronic items bought at a value of more than R100. He says though it helps mostly with recovery. He says even when selling to second-hand shops this is crucial as the sellers are required to obtain the seller and buyer’s details including copies of identity books, addresses and serial numbers in case the item has to be traced back to anyone. He also says there are stolen items that the police manage to recover, but fail to identify the owners because serial numbers were not included while reporting them missing.“Stolen items can only be detected by testing items on their serial numbers. People do not know how important this is. As a result, we end up with a lot of unclaimed items at the station,” says Saunders. Saunders also warns second-hand shop owners to make sure they are registered and operate legally to avoid conflict with the law. He says registration helps combat the trading of stolen items.Explaining the application process, Saunders says: An applicant must be a South African citizen or have permanent residency or a valid work permit.The registration must be done in the presence of a police officer at the applicant’s commercial property.The applicant cannot have a criminal record.