Changes to how police handle lost property

  • 25 February 2019

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We are streamlining our procedures to make it easier for people to locate lost items, as well as providing clearer guidance and help for finders.

Inspector Tim Flanigan from PSNI Criminal Justice Branch explains: “Historically PSNI enquiry offices have been the first port of call for many people who find items they believe may have been lost by another person. Our enquiry office staff have previously happily accepted all items handed in, from keys and glasses to phones and passports, but the reality is that few of the lower value items make their way back to their owner.

What we want to do is increase the chance of people being reunited with their valuable and important personal items by updating and simplifying the procedures around the type of items our staff can accept and deal with as lost property.

In line with our core principle of keeping people safe we ask that any item that could present a potential danger to the public, like a firearm or drugs, should be immediately reported to us and we will make the necessary arrangements to seize the item and investigate as appropriate.

We are also continuing to encourage people to hand in higher value items like phones, larger sums of cash and jewellery. For these, we will appoint an investigating officer and endeavour to identify the owner. As is currently the case, we will hold items for 28 days and, if after that time the rightful owner has not been located, found cash may be returned to the finder. Other items may be disposed of.

Passports or other confidential or official documents, should still be handed in at your nearest police station however in the case of driving licences, ID cards or bank cards, these items should be returned to the issuer.

For other more commonly lost lower value items like keys or glasses, we recommend that finders hand them in at the venue at which they’ve been found, or make a reasonable effort to identify the owner themselves, perhaps by posting details on social media or putting up a notice in a local shop or business.

Our advice for businesses is the same. Owners of bars, restaurants, taxi firms or any venue where items are regularly lost or found, should retain the items themselves rather than handing them in at their nearest police station as they may have done in the past. We have found over the years that if someone has lost something at a nightclub for example, there is a greater chance that that individual will return to the venue to look for their property than approach a police station.

Further information and guidance can be obtained by visiting the relevant pages of the PSNI website at

We hope that by making these small changes we can better prioritise lost property and help give people and businesses a clearer understanding of what they should do with lost and found items.”

Keeping People Safe