D.C.’s lost treasures: A look into police lost and founds

It can be a forgetful person’s most useful refuge. It is for the GWorld losers, textbook leavers and backpack forgetters that roam GW’s campus.

When items are lost, the lost and found is there to help.

University Police’s lost and found serves the students, staff and faculty of GW by handling between 1,200 and 1,500 lost items annually, UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said. While the items most frequently turned in to UPD include credit cards, iPods, cell phones, jewelry, keys and notebooks, some stranger things have been known to turn up from time to time.

“The most unusual items we have received in the last six-month period would be: a hair extension, a wig, baby clothing and other baby items, a bag of dirty laundry, a couple of flags and banners,” Stafford wrote in an e-mail last week.

UPD holds the items in the lost and found for 30 days before donating them to charities, such as Good Will and Lighthouse for the Blind, or destroying them.

Serving a community of more than 20,000 students, 5,700 staff members and 4,400 professors yields an average of 20 to 30 lost items in a week or about 100 items a month for UPD, Stafford said.

The task is an even larger production for the lost and found of D.C.’s Metro system, which has about 336 millions trips per year.

In a given month, the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority collects an average of 1,800 items – 300 more than GW collects in a given year on average.

Lendy Castillo, a customer service representative for Metro, said he sees a lot of the same items in the lost and found. Keys, glasses and cell phones are the most common items found on Metro’s trains or in its 86 stations, he said. Between 30 and 40 percent of items wind up being reclaimed.

Like UPD, Metro officials hold items for 30 days at the Silver Spring Metro stop before the item’s fate varies. Glasses and clothing are donated to the Lions Club, while keys and other metal items are melted down. Expensive electronics such as laptops, phones and music players are eventually auctioned off by Metro’s procurement office.

“When we find books, we open it up and if it belongs to D.C. public schools they come get their books,” said Castillo, who added that schools are particularly grateful for returned books.

For a system that handles around 21,000 items a year, one would imagine that some strange items turn up along the way. For Metro, this year has been relatively uneventful, Castillo said.

“Two years ago someone found a wheelchair,” Castillo said.

Despite Metro’s tame inventory, there is still work to be done.

“With the tourist season we may get some more items,” he said. “It usually peaks around now.”

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