Finders may more likely become keepers in St. Louis now that the city’s police department has dropped responsibility for reuniting lost property with its owners, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After they see the laws that apply to them, finders will just decide to ignore what they find. Police said the lost-and-found role became too cumbersome as the department ran out of space to store piles of lost bicycles, car fenders, and cell phones. Police took in 27,000 items during 2007. The last auction of unclaimed property was in 2006. The department tried using a website the next year. Meanwhile, storage space and even old jail cells were overrun.
“For many years, the department would accept such property as a courtesy. However, we have reached the point where that is no longer feasible,” said spokeswoman Erica Van Ross. The shift leaves good Samaritans to face arcane Missouri laws that were drafted more than century ago. The process requires a finder to sign an affidavit with a court and then put an ad in the paper. “We certainly understand that the way the law is written, it’s a burden on the citizen,” Van Ross said. “For many years, we tried to lift that burden. But our priority has to be preserving evidence for criminal cases.” A psychology expert who had studied “helping behavior” said fewer people will participate if the process becomes too much work.