Police auction a one-stop stolen, found and forfeited goods shop

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If your trumpet, jackhammer or two pairs of children's size 13 shoes went missing recently, they could be on the block at this year's first police unclaimed goods auction. 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/04/2021 (606 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If your trumpet, jackhammer or two pairs of children’s size 13 shoes went missing recently, they could be on the block at this year’s first police unclaimed goods auction. 

But how, exactly, did your trumpet end up in the hands of the cops?

Winnipeg Police Service property and evidence technician Ken Phillips said the 326 items up for auction online Wednesday are either found, stolen or forfeited by the courts. 

TREVOR HAGAN / FREE PRESS FILES Ken Phillips estimates in his 15 years working for evidence control, the auctions have netted about $400,000 total.

The revenue from the auctions — typically two are held a year — fluctuates based on the items sold, but any cash made goes into the WPS general fund. 

“Sometimes it’s just, things are stolen and if an owner doesn’t come forward or we can’t determine who that owner is, it falls to auction,” said Phillips, a civilian police employee who works in evidence control.

A wheelchair — one of the pieces of unclaimed property set to be auctioned — was likely found abandoned on city streets and turned in as possibly stolen to police. But if, after 30 days, no one has reported it stolen or it hasn’t been connected to a crime, it’s then held by evidence control until the next auction.

“The best-case scenario is that the owner actually gets the property back, that’s always what we strive for,” Phillips said. “Unfortunately it’s not always the case. If people don’t report things stolen — so there’s no connection to them — or they don’t have serial numbers, or things are forfeited through the court system and there is no owner that we know of, the property becomes available. 

“One way of not just disposing of stuff that’s still useful is to auction it, as opposed to just throwing it out.” 

In the case of found goods, the finder can apply to claim it as their own after 30 days, provided they sign paperwork to relinquish it to the rightful owner if it’s later reported stolen. 

“The deterrent there is — I steal something, I give it to you, you claim it was found, then you claim it (after 30 days) and give it back to me. We want to discourage anyone picking things up and saying ‘Oh look, I found this.’ But if you legitimately found something, there is a process,” Phillips said. 

Evidence control might hold goods forfeited by the courts for years as the case makes its way through the legal system. 

“But if the courts decide the person claiming it is not the owner, then it can go to auction as soon as the court says it’s good to go,” Phillips said, adding that any item with an identifiable owner would be returned. 

He estimates in his 15 years working for evidence control, the auctions have netted about $400,000 total. 

The online auction runs until next Wednesday through Associated Auto Auction’s website

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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Updated on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 7:13 PM CDT: Corrects repeated word, reformats factbox.

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