Dover Police goes social to reunite lost items with owners

DOVER — A quick 10 minutes after police announced the launch of a lost and found site for unclaimed property, the first connection was made.

The Dover Police Department advertised the new Pinterest page feature on its Facebook page, and a commenter tagged the owner of a wallet that was part of a theft investigation.

“ … hopefully he will claim it,” Dover Police spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman said.

Late last week, authorities began showcasing items deemed as lost, often stolen from victims, turned in by the public or found by officers and held at Dover PD. The Pinterest page was shown in a news release available at Doverpolice.org.

The debut page had 32 items available for view, with more planned as the site developed.

Anyone who may have a claim to property can contact Dover Police evidence technician Dean Anderson at 736-7126 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule a pickup appointment.
Dover Police will determine whether the person with the claim is the rightful owner or is legally eligible to pick up the item or items as a representative of the owner.

More information on this unclaimed purse and other items is available on a Dover Police Department Pinterest page announced Monday. It’s at Doverpolice.org. (Submitted/Dover Police Department)

More information on this unclaimed purse and other items is available on a Dover Police Department Pinterest page announced Monday. It’s at Doverpolice.org. (Submitted/Dover Police Department)

Authorities said required proof of identification or ownership may include, among others:
• Government issued identification (driver’s license/social security card/birth certificate/etc.)
• Utility bill or other proof of residency.
• Receipt or box of item being claimed with matching serial number.
• Ability to log into electronic devices with correct username/password witnessed by evidence technician.
• Any other form of ID or proof of ownership the evidence technician deems necessary.

How to use it

Cpl. Hoffman said he connected with other law enforcement agency representatives using Pinterest during a Social Media in Law Enforcement Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“It made me curious how law enforcement could use this platform,” he said.

“I found out that many were using it as an unclaimed property resource, but were also sharing police humor, police related activities for children, safety tips for summer, back to school, Halloween, the holiday season, etc.”

After consulting with Evidence Technician Anderson, a Pinterest page was deemed viable to promote unclaimed property, Cpl. Hoffman said.

Typically, Dover Police holds unclaimed property for a minimum of one year. After that, disposal practices vary in each case, Cpl. Hoffman said, and methods were not immediately available due to the evidence technician’s unavailability.

During criminal investigations, stolen items often are located and held by police, while arrested suspects may be holding multiple wallets and other property, Cpl. Hoffman said. Only victims’ items will be available for return, authorities said.

Among the regular recoveries as identification cards from victims, which Dover Police actively attempts to re-connect through phone calls or home visits.

“If they’re in evidence, it is because the person was unreachable or the ID contains wrong information,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “Officers are not allowed to keep evidence, so they must secure it once all reasonable efforts are exhausted.”

ID cards may accumulate from lost and found sites, special events like Firefly/NASCAR, theft investigations, etc, Cpl. Hoffman said.

Additions and deletions

Dover Police’s Pinterest page will be an ever-changing series of updates of additions and deletions, with items being removed upon being claimed and added as they are found. The evidence technician will photograph and log all items to be posted and forward them to Cpl. Hoffman.

“The public is encouraged to visit the page as often as they’d like to view the updates and new information,” Cpl. Hoffman said. “We will continue to advertise the page on our other social media outlets as well to remind people to check the site.”

With expansion plans already in the works, Cpl. Hoffman said Pinterest page features will include safety tips, children’s activities, public events and more.

While wallets and ID cards are most commonly turned in by the public and seized during criminal investigations, “We see bicycles, suitcases, clothing, coats, etc.,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

“There’s not to many things we haven’t seen turned in.”

The Pinterest page will be promoted and distributed to the public via social media and the Dover Police website, Cpl. Hoffman said.

“Obviously, the most important thing is returning the property to its rightful owner,” he said. “That is our goal with this project.

“Another benefit is freeing up some much needed space in our evidence unit.”

Information on the unclaimed property — when, where, how it was located, etc. — will depend on the case, Cpl. Hoffman said.

The latest Pinterest page is part of Dover Police’s continued emphasis on connecting and communicating with the public through social media and online contacts, Cpl. Hoffman said, to “improve a service that we provide.

“Showing that we are making the extra effort to reunite owners with their property demonstrates that the Dover Police Department cares about its community and the people they serve.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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