Every police force in England and Wales is no longer dealing with lost property so officers have more time to fight crime.
From 1 October, anyone who contacts the police about something they have lost will be redirected to private websites. Although some of these services are free, others carry a charge of £4.95 for every item reported.
Services such as ReportMyLoss.com store lost property reports on a database which can be accessed by police forces – “increasing the chances of lost items being identified and returned whilst decreasing the chances of associated criminality”.
South Yorkshire Police says it receives 11,000 reports of lost property per year – 4,000 over the phone – even though such incidents are not a police matter.
“By not taking these reports anymore, we will save over 300 hours of staff time each year, which can be used to deal with reports of crime and antisocial behaviour,” the force added.
The decision stop dealing with lost property was made by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and follows a national government review and consultation with forces across the country, 29 of which took part.
From 1 October, all 43 forces in England and Wales will only accept certain items such as mobile phones and tablets which may hold personal data.
Forces will still accept items that may be linked to a crime – as well as firearms, weapons and ammunition, passports, drugs, pornography and items where the owner is identifiable.
Gareth Morgan, the chief constable of Staffordshire Police, said: “Over the years, police forces have traditionally accepted the responsibility of recording lost property and the public have come to expect this as a service.
“The number of lost property reports the force receives has declined year-on-year and the way in which the service is utilised has also changed; often the requirement being to validate lost property for insurance purposes.
“Change can always be viewed as contentious, however we will continue to take an active role in reuniting members of the public with their property should their items be found or later retrieved as stolen goods.”
The new system does not affect stolen property, which can still be reported to police.