Unclaimed property goes to charityShopping carts full of unclaimed property were packed into a pickup truck Wednesday in front of the Government Center. The lot included everything from gun cases and fishing poles to electronics and greenhouse lights.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Shopping carts full of unclaimed property were packed into a pickup truck Wednesday in front of the Government Center. The lot included everything from gun cases and fishing poles to electronics and greenhouse lights.
“You just never know what you’re going to get,” said Master Officer Gary Gothner with the Superior Police Department. The items have been stacking up in the department’s property room for more than a year. With every purge of the room, Gothner said, unclaimed items get set to the side. Once enough of them have built up, they are given away.
The officer helped Capt. Dave Johnson of the Superior Fire Department pile the items into his truck Wednesday. Johnson planned to sort and clean the items, then drive them up to Sellers Auction, 2103½ W. Third St., Duluth. The lot will be sold at a 4:30 p.m. consignment auction Feb. 27. This purging process takes place every time the property room is too full, usually about once a year. It nets about $500 annually for Superior’s Old Firehouse & Police Museum.
“This is a little windfall for us,” said Johnson, a volunteer at the museum. “We have a very short revenue stream.” The money will go toward minor remodeling, upgrades and other needs at the 1898 building, which houses historic firefighting equipment as well as the state of Wisconsin’s Fire & Police Hall of Fame.
Prior to 1999, the unclaimed property was sold by officers and sent back to the city coffers. But the process wasn’t cost-effective, Gothner said. In 1999, the city ordinance was tweaked to allow the unclaimed items to be donated to a local charitable organization.
Previous loads have contained such unusual items as golf clubs and perfume.
“This is our best batch of stuff yet,” Johnson said. It included a pair of roller blades, a portable vacuum, new boots, DVDs, a roll of aluminum tubing, a compound bow and lots of electronics. But plenty of items remain at the police department.
“We have over 40,000 pieces of property in the property room,” Gothner said, even after sending about 200 items to auction with Johnson. He estimated that items sit in the room for more than a year, sometimes up to four years, before they are purged. Some lands in dumpsters, useful items might be retained for department use, according to Animal Control Officer Chris Wagner, one of the officers who works in the property room. And some is donated to the Old Firehouse & Police Museum. The helping hand is appreciated by volunteers.
“We’re taking advantage of this but we’d much rather get them back into the hands of the people they belong to,” Johnson said.
Often, Gothner said, victims of theft don’t know the serial numbers on their electronics and other items. He offered a tip for easy identification; take digital pictures of each piece and its serial number, and email the pictures to yourself. That information can be accessed from any computer, in case theirs is stolen.
If people have had something stolen or lost, or an item of theirs was held by the police for evidentiary purposes, it’s a good idea to check occasionally to see if the item has turned up or can be released.
“A lot of property goes to auction because people don’t come claim it,” Gothner said.
In addition, the Superior Police Department property room is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. every Thursday. Wagner suggested that those interested in collecting property call the main desk, (715) 395-7234, ahead of time to give officers time to research the case and item in their database.