Every year over 1 million instruments are stolen from musicians and less than 3% are recovered.
Publicize instrument thefts to musicians who are the buyers of instruments - the people most likely to come across a stolen instrument being sold.
Millions in rewards.
The Stolen Music Instrument Recovery Project was founded by musician Chris Stone to see if stolen instrument recovery rates could be increased by publicizing instrument thefts to musicians using social networks. "Being a musician and having worked in music retail, I knew there was a problem with instrument theft. Then someone stole one of my electric guitars - a Minarik Lotus Gold Top - and I learned first hand about how few stolen instruments are recovered. Even though the stolen guitar was very unique and identifiable, the police told me the bad news - less than 3% of stolen instruments are recovered."
There are two main problems the police have with recovering stolen music instruments:
(1) Their System Relies on Serial Numbers: The police system relies on serial numbers to identify stolen instruments. When a stolen instrument is sold online (Craigslist, Ebay...) the seller does not submit the serial number to the police, thus bypassing the police's ability to recover.
(2) Lack of Resources: The police do not give high priority to recovering stolen music instruments. It is very time consuming for police to search all of the available locations where a stolen instrument may be sold, including on-line locations (i.e. Craigslist and EBay) and off-line locations (i.e. pawn shops and instrument resellers.)
(1) Passive System: Online stolen instrument databases are passive - the information is added to a database which "waits" for someone to go to the site and search the database.
(2) Wrong Target Audience: Most viewers of stolen instrument database sites are people who had their instruments stolen!
The Stolen Music Instrument Recovery Project's solution is to use social networking to actively publicize instrument thefts to the buyers of music instruments - musicians. The idea is similar to Amber Alerts - notify the community, make them aware of what is missing, and hopefully one of those people seeing the alert will see the stolen instrument and help get it back to the owner.
An example of how the Stolen Music Instrument Recovery Project method works and has been successful was the recovery of a custom Maccaferi style acoustic guitar. The custom made guitar was stolen from a classical pianist musician from her home in San Francisco. Making the theft even more painful was that inside the case was the sheet music of her original songs which she had never made copies of. The victim contacted Screaming Stone after the police informed her that there was very little chance of recovery. Screaming Stone publicized the information - and within two days was contacted by another musician who had purchased the stolen guitar from someone selling it on the streets of San Francisco. That musician, a professional classical and jazz guitarist, purchased the $3000 guitar for $150, realizing it was most likely stolen. A few days later he saw the stolen instrument notice on Screaming Stone's Myspace and contacted us. The original owner initially thought it was a scam, so we verified that the finder actually had her guitar using information that would only be known to the owner and someone holding the guitar. To the original owner's amazement, the guitar was hers - and making it even better - the sheet music of her original songs were still in the case!
Spread the word! The more people seeing the stolen music instrument notices, the better chance we have at one of those people coming across a stolen instrument and getting the instrument back into the hands of the musician. The more musicians we have searching the stolen list before they buy, the harder it will be for thieves to sell stolen instruments. The harder it is for thieves to sell stolen instruments, the less likely it will be for them to steal instruments.
It may take years, but hopefully we can make the world a safer place for musicians and their instruments.
Please show your support for the Stolen Music Instrument Recovery Project by making a donation.