Bibles on benches, borrowed or abandoned bikes and a surprising amount of watches fill the Oak Bay police found property hold.
Bikes top the list in quantity found each year, and the department constantly ships dozens of bikes off to charity, said Sgt. Rob Smith, the primary property and exhibit custodian at Oak Bay Police Department who handles the majority of the department’s “found” items.
Recently, most bikes go to U-Fix It BikeWorks, a Cowichan Valley youth outreach program that promotes cycling, fitness and environmental awareness.
The program offers space, tools, parts and adult role models to help young people fix bikes, creating opportunities for them to earn their own set of wheels.
“If they’ve been sitting in Bowker Creek for six months they’ll take them,” Smith said.
There are a few random one-offs in the property hold as well: tool kit, boot scrubber – a bear-shaped thing with a scrubber belly – and surprisingly a drone that Smith tried to make “Twitter famous” in a bid to return it. He blurred out the faces and sent an image from an attached camera in hopes someone would recognize the backyard.
It’s still at the office on Monterey Avenue awaiting claim alongside copious cell phones “just found on the street.”
They have some systems at hand to try to locate an owner, but privacy concerns hinder the process. Smith recalls one particularly fun returned iPhone found at Willows Beach.
As it quickly approached its 90-day expiry, a couple of phone numbers kept popping up on the screen, including a repeated one from Musqueam.
When they called the number, the phone owner was identified as that person’s aunt – in the Netherlands.
“That was fun talking to somebody on the other side of the world,” Smith said.
With anything found the officers can system query reports from across the province, but details make that easier. For example, a black walkie talkie may get far too many returns for any department to follow up on. If it’s filed as lost or missing with a brand name and other identifiers, it could turn up. It also must be reported to show up in the system.
“We can pick up the match, but only if it’s reported,” Smith said.
The current crop includes items from Oak Bay recreation centres, including a grad ring from Xavier University with an inscription that indicates sentimental value, and an old-looking necklace. Sometimes Smith will take those items to Barclay’s Fine Jewellers on Oak Bay Avenue before destroying, just to determine value.
“We would put something like that (of value) to auction and then donate the proceeds to charity,” he said.
Otherwise, most everything is destroyed 90 days after it comes in, with the exception of a few odds and ends that don’t risk personal information showing up at the second chance table at the public works yard. The “dispose for department use” could see the bear for cleaning boots by the back door at Oak Bay police station.
“We do everything we can to match found property against the reports of lost and stolen property across the CRD but unfortunately, many items aren’t returned to those who have been deprived of them,” Smith said. “The disconnect is generally due to the fact that many, if not most people, are not reporting their items missing.”
Report missing items to the Oak Bay Police Department at 250-592-2424.