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Here at NotLost we are passionate about lost property and understand how important every lost item is to it’s owner. We are also well aware of the burden that lost property can put on organisations when they do not have an effective process for registering and returning items. 

As of February 1st 2019, various UK police departments have released public statements saying they will no longer take responsibility for lost property. Police forces are now actively encouraging the general public to seek alternatives when it comes to the processing and repatriation of ‘non-acceptable’ items of lost property. Naturally, this raises concerns amongst the public as the definitions between lost property and stolen property are now less apparent than ever. We’ve read the headlines and taken a deep look into the cause and effect of the new ruling. Here’s what we know so far…  

What the police have said

The new act has formed after a survey conducted by the Police Front Counters Forum, in which participating police departments agreed that lost property isn’t a priority or responsibility of the police. The NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council) document outlines the previous process, highlighting the issue and antiquated nature in which lost property is handled. The recent statements released by the police regarding the new lost property procedures are as follows.

The police service will not accept and record found property except under certain circumstances.

Spokesman, Staffordshire Police Department

In regards to what the public should now do when dealing with lost property, the police had this to say.

Found items dealt with by police will reduce and a consistent approach will be adopted across the country, this will help reduce call volumes and remove an unnecessary burden on policing.

Spokesman, National Police Chief's Council

For found items we no longer accept, with some exceptions, the finder will be encouraged to retain the property. They are under no legal obligation to hand in the property providing they have made a reasonable attempt to return it to the owner.

Keren Pope

Police Inspector, Huntington police

The UK police have also released a list, which categorises items into what they seem ‘acceptable’ for them to process and those are which now ‘unacceptable’. Some of the items listed are quite surprising to see such as bicycles and jewellery, however it has also been said that items which are thought to be crime related will still be handled by them. Here’s what the items are. 

Items of property no longer accepted by Police

These are items of found property no longer to be accepted by the UK police forces, unless suspected of being involved in a crime.

• Bicycles 
• Kitchen knives and cutlery 
• Empty handbags, bags, wallets and purses 
• Cases 
• Clothing 
• Perishable goods 
• Animals 
• Rubbish/Waste 
• Umbrellas 
• Keys 
• Spectacles 
• Watches (except if capable of containing personal data) 
• Jewellery

Keys Lost property

Items of property deemed acceptable to hand in for police processing

These are items of personal property deemed acceptable and/or legally required to be handed into a police station so that appropriate legal measures and obligations can be fulfilled.

• Items capable of containing data for example mobile phones, computers, tablets. 
• Cash within wallets that are identifiable  
• Unidentifiable cash 
• Items suspected of being involved in crime 
• High Value Items 
• Firearms and ammunition 
• Weapons 
• Drugs 
• HM Forces ID, Equipment and Force Medals 
• Explosives 
• Chemicals

Some items fall into a grey area where police will accept and compliantly dispose of them, although they are encouraging the  public who find these items to ‘do it themselves’ under the new policy. These are things like; Passports, bank cards, identity cards, birth, marriage and death certificates and driving licences.   

%

of all lost items recorded by police are returned to rightful owners.

Public reaction to new lost property process

Concerns from the public around the new policy have arisen, as fear of the new act around lost property will blur the lines of personal property and create avenues for petty crime to now slip through the cracks with less responsibility to record items being taken by the police.

“This sounds more like finders keepers now.” was a comment left on a Facebook thread announcing the new policy.

“Where has “the protection of life and property” gone. To be told that a finder can keep the item as long as reasonable effort has been made to find the owner, in my opinion, encourages certain people to look out for anything they can lay their hands on and then keep it under this scheme.” A comment that was left by a former UK Police officer on the Facebook thread.

Perhaps the cost of resources and unwillingness to continue from authorities around the issue of lost property could be attributed to the fact that the system in place is manual, antiquated and not built to sustain the volume. We have only found one police department in the UK that had a digital system dedicated to registering and recording lost property.

The impact of the NPCC ruling around lost property remains to be seen but with the authorities now taking a back seat, it’s up to the public, venues and places of business to take responsibility for items of unclaimed property.

Until next time!