..Lorna Hartman..

Sometimes you don't have to outwit or outfight the criminal. Think they don't have morals? Read this column to find out what did the trick in the following memorable case.

LONGMONT, COLORADO -- Joan* rented storage space in Longmont, Colorado, intending to store a few things for about three months. But she left Colorado and ended up in southern California, where she started working and got a new place. The stored items were left but not forgotten.

One day she got a call from Karen,* the woman running the storage property. "I'm heartsick to tell you this," Karen said, and story tumbled out.

Karen had recently hired two teenaged boys to help out around the property. Not long after their hiring, Joan's costly mountain bike and a valuable collection of record albums was stolen from her storage space. Evidence pointed to one of the new employees. One of them came to Karen shortly after the theft and pointed the finger of suspicion at the other employee, but Karen didn't necessarily buy this. When her suspicions were confirmed, she called the police, but they couldn't do anything unless Joan pressed charges. It was at this point that Karen called Joan to tell her about the stolen items and to ask Joan what she wanted to do.

Joan and Karen decided not to call the police. To Joan, getting the bike and LPs back was more important than nailing someone. So she instructed Karen to call the boys together and say something like this: "We've just lost a mountain bike and some CDs from this woman's storage shed. I know you guys are 'plugged in' and if you hear anything on the street, would you let me know? She badly wants them back, and I need your help. All we want is to get the items back, not to go to the cops. So help me out here, okay? Keep me posted if you hear something."

Karen did this. Within a single day, the bike was back. The employee who brought it back said he "might be able" to get the LPs back too. In the end, it was a success story.

I wouldn't have believed this one myself if I hadn't heard it firsthand from Joan. So nobody can say petty criminals in American have no conscience. The appeal to conscience may not be our most powerful crimefighting weapon -- but we can't rule it out!

* Not her real name.

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If you have a similar story of preventing crime or helping to capture a criminal, or know someone else who does, contact Lorna Hartman.

Link to previous Crimestoppers columns: