Investigators for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in NYC gave 26 items to various transit workers in order to see how long it would take for the items to show up at New York City Transit’s lost property claim office. Trouble is, only 3 items showed up at all, and the MTA wasn’t expecting that.
“Obviously, the results are disturbing,” said the inspector general, Barry L. Kluger. He added that the investigation was not meant “as a sting operation” and that it was not possible to know if the missing items were stolen by transit employees or simply “wound up in the bottom of a drawer or in a wastebasket.”
The report said that the transit agency’s lost property unit received more than 8,000 items each year and that only about 18 percent wound up back in the hands of their owners. Most unclaimed items were eventually auctioned off, the report said.
The audit also uncovered a chaotic system for handling property once it is turned in, with few safeguards. Often it can take weeks or months for lost items to make their way to the property unit’s office where people can claim them.
Then there was the case of the lost earring. After it was found, a bus employee put the earring, which was set with what looked like a diamond, into an envelope for transfer to the lost property unit, the report said. But the envelope arrived empty.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the NYPD is conducting something called “Operation Lucky Bag” in which they drop wallets and bags at subway stations and arrest anyone who picks them up and doesn’t walk immediately to a transit worker to turn them over. Over 200 New Yorkers have been arrested, many of them good people who intended to report the item, or track down the owner, but didn’t want to miss their train.
Lost an Item in a Subway? Good Luck for Its Return [NewYork Times]