The rumours are true: If you hand an item into the police and nobody claims it, you’ll be given the opportunity to keep it yourself.
But what exactly is the process? How long are items kept by the police, how are the owners found and – if nobody claims it – do items just pile up at the local police station forever?
We did the digging to find out what happens to lost property items once they get handed over to the police.
I’ve lost something, who do I contact?
You can either contact your local police station or fill out a lost property form online. You’ll need to provide your details and any details about the missing item. The form will take about 15 minutes to fill out, and you’ll also get a case number to use for insurance purposes.
How do I go about handing something in I found?
If you’ve found an item you can contact your local police station or fill in a found property report online.
How do I prove an item is mine?
A police spokesperson told Stuff the proof required would vary case by case, but ultimately the police would just need to be satisfied the item is yours. Keeping serial numbers for valuable items is ideal.
If nobody claims items are they just kept forever?
No, property is kept by police for a certain amount of time before being sold at auction or disposed of if it isn’t claimed.
Is it true I get the item if nobody claims it?
Yes, after the item is kept for a reasonable amount if time, if it has not been claimed the person that handed it in will have the opportunity to claim the item.
What’s a reasonable amount of time?
A police spokesperson pointed Stuff to section 41 of the policing act which suggests items be held for six weeks or more before it can be sold at auction or, if it has no monetary value or is not reasonable to sell, can be destroyed.
So I can bid on unclaimed property? How do I find an auction?
A search online will show upcoming auctions in your area, or you can contact your local police station to find out when the next auction is.
What happens to the money?
Any money, minus storage, auction and other related costs get deposited into a crown account.
What kinds of things can I buy at a police auction?
Police auctions happen fairly regularly, and the items depend on what the police have to get rid of at the time. In Auckland, a recent “police and other” auction by Thorntons included phones and computers, watches, sunglasses and a paddleboard.
Back in 2013, a William Todd & Co auction included 80 bikes in the 260-odd items unclaimed from Invercargill police property.
When’s the next one?
In Auckland, Thorntons will have an online police auction on June 29.