Lost property can be kept by whoever finds it as police say there is “no legal obligation” to hand anything in under new powers.
Cambridgeshire Police is set to join other forces nationwide by ceasing to take reports of lost property and accepting only certain types of found item.
It means that personal items such as jewellery and keys can be kept by the person who finds them – providing they have made a “reasonable attempt” to get in touch with the owner.
“For found items we no longer accept, with some exceptions, the finder will be encouraged to retain the property,” a police spokesperson said.
“They are under no legal obligation to hand in the property providing they have made a reasonable attempt to return it to the owner.”
The changes take effect nationally from today (February 1).
However, it has sparked a debate on social media with a former police officer labelling it as “completely ridiculous”.
It comes as the Chief Constables’ Council agreed it as a “way of reducing non-essential demand and the associated costs and bureaucracy generated for call centres and front counters”.
A former police officer commented on Facebook: “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 bicycle is someone’s property and totally easy to steal or loose and keep if you live in Cambridge - whatever next.
“This is completely ridiculous.”
Another person said: “Yesterday I saw someone sticking jumpers up his coat in Poundland. I shouted to him I could see him stealing and he gave a gob full back shrugged and ran off.
“Tried to report to security-no one’s interested. Petty crime seems to just be ‘we don’t have time and resources’.”
While another added: “This sounds more like finders keepers now then.”
The police service has traditionally accepted the responsibility of recording lost and found property, despite there being no statutory duty to maintain a system of recording non-evidential property.
“Found items dealt with by police will reduce and a consistent approach will be adopted across the country,” a spokesperson added.
“This will help reduce call volumes and remove an unnecessary burden on policing.”
Inspector Keren Pope said: “As with any change to a long-standing convention, it will take time for people to get used to this new way of working.
“There are now many ways of receiving the same service online and information and guidance will be available on our website. These changes will result in a significant saving for forces in terms of time and money, allowing us to concentrate on the issues most important to people.
“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.”
Those who have lost or found an item, can visit the force website for guidance on what they should do.
Any loss can be reported online at sites including:
www.reportmyloss.com (for an insurance report)
For bicycles, register and report at www.bikeregister.com
Report UK Passports at https://www.gov.uk/report-a-lost-or-stolen-passport
Details of losses reported via these methods are made available to police forces across the UK.
If you have lost property in a public place or premises or on public transport, it is advised to contact the location or service provider directly.
The following categories have been created for found items:
• Items capable of containing data e.g. mobile phones and computers.
• Cash and wallets that are identifiable
• Unidentifiable cash
• Identity and personal documents
Items not accepted include
• Personal but unidentifiable items
For non-accepted items, with some exceptions, the finder can 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.