At any police station, the seized property store may well be the room that members of the public would most like to have a wonder around. In their minds it’s full of strange weapons, ancient artifacts and priceless jewels.
Does the reality live up to what people might imagine a police property room to look like though?
In my experience the answer is yes. Take a stroll past the secure doors of the property store and you instantly find yourself in a magical world filled with exotic throwing stars, illegal substances and odd bits of copper.
Yep, when it comes to defining eclectic, the property store is a good place to start. Home to things that have both been lost and also evidence seized during the course of investigations, you are likely to find everything from remote control cars to all the bits you’d likely need to build the real thing. There are thousands of discs containing CCTV, a variety of bikes and even a bin dedicated entirely to the storage of swords.
Property finds its way into the store from a variety of different locations. In the case of found items handed to police officers, they are usually taken to a local police station where they are logged with the property computer. Staff from the property store then do their daily rounds collecting the various bits and pieces and finding them a space on the shelves.
Seized property likewise will be bagged by the officers, an exhibit label applied and then will be locked away until it is needed at court. The exhibit label is important in that it allows us to account for where the property has been. The bags are sealed for the same reason, so that we can testify that no one has been able to alter the item after seizure.
Whilst there are indeed some weird and wonderful things in the stores, there’s also a great deal of uninteresting, monetarily worthless things that have to be seized but which probably wouldn’t be of interest to a visitor to the store.
Looking at the shelves you’ll see all sorts of broken door frames, bits of metal and other anonymous items which have been collected because they may contain fingerprints or DNA useful in a case.
Items are usually kept until either collected or used as evidence in court. For evidence we’re likely to hold onto the exhibits until around six months after the conclusion of the court case should there be any appeals.
Efforts will be made to return identifiable lost property to its owner however if we’re unable to do so after a while we’ll either dispose of it or alternatively, sell it at auction.
Sales for property sold in the West Midlands are held through the Aston’s auctioneers. They publish full details of upcoming auctions on their website and moneys raised find their way back to the community.
Whilst the money raised in these auctions is indeed welcome, I think we’d prefer to be able to return the goods to their original owners as in my experience, when someone has had something stolen the item’s return is their primary concern.
Marking up your property and noting serial numbers provides your best chance for getting stolen goods back – I’ve written about this before and would say doing so is one of your strongest weapons against the burglars.
If we have serial numbers to hand, we can enter them onto our crime recording system and then compare them against the property system to see if we get a match. As I’ve advised before, get yourself over to the free property registering website Immobilise and build yourself an inventory which will be invaluable if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer a loss.
When it comes to larger items, like cars and vans, we have a number of other facilities dotted around the West Midlands where we can securely store things for them to be examined. Vehicles in particular are often seized for forensic examination and we have access to purpose built garages where they can be kept until FSI can come out and dust for prints etc.
I have to walk past the property store every shift on the way to the locker room and always slow down a little to peer inside and see what new additions they have added to their archive. It’s always something different, be it a new bike or a part from another disassembled cannabis factory, and as such it’s fair to say the property store is probably the most interesting part of the station.