The cost and volume of insurance claims could plummet if a new initiative by Surrey police goes nationwide and wins the backing of the internet-using public.
Using a specially-designed web site, Surrey Police have set up Virtual Bumblebee which anyone who has been the victim of a robbery or has lost valuables can visit to see if their valuables are displayed.
The system is interactive in the sense that it can e-mail members of the public with details of any property entered on the site which looks like it could be theirs.
Surrey officers have been equipped with digital cameras to upload images of property on to the site. Users can search a giant database of property using keywords or categories.
"Once you start really looking into the possibilities of a site like this, it is virtually limitless, and we are confident of a very positive response from the public," said Brian Whicher of the Crime Prevention Unit of Surrey Police.
The web site – which is still in its infancy – can be found at: www.surrey.police.uk/bumblebee
PC Whicher added: "The site is designed to be incredibly flexible and easy to use and will also be linked with the new Neighbourhood Watch area on the internet. The more people who know about Virtual Bumblebee the more likely we are to be able to match people with their property, so we have printed and handed out 50,000 leaflets."