LETTER: 'Terrible mistake' for new lost property police restrictions
PUBLISHED: 07:07 20 February 2019
I was appalled to learn from an article in last week's Ely Standard ('Finders keepers . . .') that Cambridgeshire Police, in line with other police-forces nationwide, plans to introduce new restrictions regarding the acceptance and reporting of the lost property, which public-spirited people bring to police stations for safe-keeping and maybe restoration to its rightful owners.
What a terrible mistake! Has it not been appreciated how valuable the police handling of lost property is in terms of its public relations with the law-abiding section of the population?
Can it really be true that missing keys and bikes are among the items which are now seen as unworthy of police time?
In the case of such items, surely nothing can be said in favour of encouraging members of the public to resort to the sloppy ‘finders keepers’ principle.
There is little hope that, without intervention by the police, such items would ever be returned to the rightful owner, whose name and address is rarely emblazoned on them.
I can give personal testimony about the gratitude I felt to the Cambridgeshire Police for the restoration of such lost property on two particular occasions. When I lived in Cambridge, my principal mode of wheeled transport for a long period was a tricycle: a trike rather than a bike, because I found that I had a balance problem when I tried to learn to propel myself on two wheels.
It was initially expensive to buy, but proved a good investment.
I once calculated that I must have ridden it about twelve thousand miles within Cambridge to and from my work-places.
I was not a car-driver or rich, so it was a devastating blow to me, once, when it was stolen, and a marvellous relief to find it, not long afterwards, at the police station, recovered, so I was told, from waste ground near St Philip’s Church. It had just been taken on a joy-ride.
More recently, I was deeply shaken, at the end of a cycle-ride through Ely, to find that I had lost my bunch of keys, which included my house keys – valueless to a stranger but extremely important for me.
I must somehow have dropped it as I cycled along Egremont Street, quite a distance away from my home.
I know this because some kind person had picked my keys up, and taken them to the nearby police station, from where I soon retrieved them.
If this facility had not been available, there is almost no chance that they would ever have been returned to me. As it was, I felt inexpressible gratitude both to the police and to the anonymous finder.
Of course, the police do not need to be involved in every sort of restoration of lost property.
On another occasion, when I seem to have been the victim of a pick-pocket, I was hugely grateful to the two young people from Littleport who had come across my purse, minus its cash but complete with several precious pieces of plastic card, in the undergrowth near a lay-by not far from Ely.
The cards betrayed my identity, so they were able to bring the purse right to my door. And no, I don’t believe they were complicit in the crime. They refused any reward. Such occurrences are very heartening.
There are times when it may be a friendly market-trader or someone at the ‘customer services’ desk at a supermarket who is able to restore mislaid goods to an absent-minded owner, without any need for police intervention.
It may sometimes seem wisest to leave dropped articles for a time exactly where they fell.
But any weakening or abandonment by the police of the compassionate scrupulousness which has in the recent past been the hallmark of our nation’s approach to ‘lost property’ issues would seem to me a very unwise step in the direction of a slippery slope.