As of Monday afternoon, Olympia police had reunited 16 residential burglary victims with stolen personal items during a public viewing at Olympia City Hall of property seized from a suspected countywide burglary ring.
"That is mine," Tumwater resident Bonnie Saiz said as she eyed a necklace that she immediately recognized as having been stolen from her home during one of two burglaries in January.
Saiz said she recognized the necklace as one that was given to her by her husband during a trip to India when he was in the Navy. Olympia Police Detective Sean Lindros quickly handed the item to Saiz for inspection. Its sentimental value is immeasurable, she said.
"It's good to get this back," she said.
Saiz found another item of jewelry that was stolen from her home during Monday's public viewing, but she said sadly, she realizes most of the jewelry and personal property the burglars took is likely never going to be recovered.
Items seized by police from the burglary ring included a smelter believed to have been used to melt down jewelry and jewelry settings.
Some burglary victims in attendance Monday said they hope to take some comfort in recovering stolen items so that they can add to the jail time of those responsible for the thefts.
Olympia Police Sgt. Matt Renschler said Monday that every recovered item that police can directly tie to a burglary makes the criminal cases against those suspects even stronger.
The array of stolen loot on display Monday was impressive - stolen military gear, including a camouflaged helmet, six laptops, GPS devices and other electronics, cameras and jewelry. Lots and lots of jewelry.
As of about 5 p.m., 16 people who attended Monday's open house had recovered stolen property, Renschler said.
Renschler said so far, the recovered stolen property and other evidence collected by Olympia, Lacey, Thurston County and Tumwater detectives in January has been tied to 30 residential burglaries. Criminal charges are pending against six main suspects, and other individuals suspected of some involvement with the burglary ring also face potential criminal charges, he said.
The Olympia Police Department arranged two public viewings of the stolen property on Monday - from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
About 100 people showed up Monday morning wanting to view the stolen property - an unexpectedly large number that overwhelmed the small number of officers prepared to escort burglary victims through the evidence room, OPD spokeswoman Laura Wohl said.
Wohl said each victim must have a police escort accompany them the entire time as they inspect suspected stolen property, in order to preserve the chain of custody of the evidence for the suspects' criminal cases.
And having three detectives take time out of their work day to help victims sort though hundreds of small items of jewelry can take a long time, she added.
Renschler said police will not rush any of the burglary victims through the evidence room, and detectives are very patient about wanting to verify that the suspects possessed stolen property.
Olympia Police Lt. Ray Holmes said more than 40 people viewed the stolen property on Monday morning - the rest had to be turned away and asked to return for the 4 p.m. showing.
Some people who showed up at 9 a.m. Monday, only to be turned away, said they were frustrated by having to wait again at 4 p.m.
"It's been an hour, this does not make sense," Cleo Risser, whose home was burglarized in January, said. Risser added that she had to take half the day off of work Monday, and arrange child care for her son in order to attend the viewing.
Wohl said that after 5 p.m. Monday, another large group of burglary victims arrived at City Hall wanting to view the stolen property.
Police had to turn them away and reschedule them for the second day of the public viewing on Wednesday.
Wohl said Monday that burglary victims who want to claim stolen property on Wednesday should call 360-709-2789 to schedule an appointment due to the large numbers of people showing up for the viewings.
Wohl said she suspects that one reason for the unusually large number of people showing up to view stolen property is that victims who were burglarized before November of last year are attending.
Olympia police believe the stolen property available for public viewing was stolen between November 2013 and February 2014. However, Wohl said people in Thurston County who are victims of residential burglaries before November will not be turned away.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; email@example.com