How to handle found property in the evidence room
Another common evidence item that requires special attention is found property. Although it usually doesn’t relate to evidence or crimes, it is entirely possible that the item IS evidence and the crime has not yet been detected or reported. For that reason, found property needs to be handled in much the same way as actual evidence.
Typically, retention periods for found property are shorter than those for evidence. Some agencies may be able to dispose found property in as little as 30 days, while others will hold it longer. Generally, if an item is examined and the possible owner is identified, either the investigating officer or evidence room personnel will attempt to contact him or her to get the item returned. When mailing letters, certified mail is preferred, particularly on high value items.
Encourage your officers to use some discretion when logging found property. Discarded trash, for instance, is just trash, not found property. Items with serial number must be checked with NCIC, and positive or negative search results should be saved in the evidence management system. Treat found items just like you treat evidence as far as packaging and recording information in the evidence management system. Found currency items should be counted by two officers before packaging. Found drugs must be counted and weighed, just as with actual evidence. Found firearms must be rendered safe just like evidence firearms before packaging. Enter as much detailed information as possible when adding found property to the evidence management system. It will help identify the owner more easily when claimed. Also, you may wish to consider periodically publishing a list of found property on your department website, or in the local paper, in an effort to return property to its owner.