17, No. 16 May 3, 2001 Issue
Lost items are found money for scholarships
By Amy Geiszler-Jones
A dozen or so sunglasses and prescription glasses hang on a pegboard covering one wall in Valerie Pittiers office in WSUs police station. Below the rows of glasses are several sets of keys.
She pulls out a desk drawer filled with ziplocked plastic bags, each filled with a piece of jewelry or hair accessory. One bag contains a talking Tweetie Bird watch. Another drawer holds a Sony microcassette recorder, a 35 mm zoom Yashica camera, two graphing calculators and a couple of cell phones.
These are but a few items Pittier is harboring in the corner of her office, which has become a holding area for the various items students, visitors and staff leave behind on the WSU campus.
A half-dozen umbrellas poke out of a crock. Various articles of clothes are hung up on a rod while others are organized into plastic carts with see-through drawers and labels indicating the contents.
While the owners of those items may be losing out on some personal treasures, many of the unclaimed items will eventually benefit some WSU students.
For nearly three decades, WSU Police has been turning unclaimed items into a source of revenue for a scholarship fund for criminal justice students. William Long, a police officer at the time, had the idea to create the scholarship fund in 1973 with the profits from selling unclaimed items. The fund, named for Long, was endowed in 1988, meaning it reached the $10,000 level. Three scholarships are awarded each semester from the funds earnings.
By law, the WSU Police are required to keep items turned in to the lost and found for 90 days, explains Pittier, a crime prevention officer whos been in charge of the lost and found operation for the past five years.
"Well look through things and try to find a name or trace the item. If we find a name, well give the person a call, or we send a postcard to say weve got their stuff and to come claim it."
As she explains the procedure, a call comes in. Someone has lost a pair of green Oakleys, an expensive brand of sunglasses. "Give me your name and Ill let you know if they come in," she tells the caller. She warns the caller, like she does anyone looking for a lost item, that the item may not be turned in. She records the callers name, contact information and the lost item, in case the sunglasses show up.
Some items, like unclaimed credit cards or checkbooks, are destroyed after the 90-day period. Other items end up stored in the corner of Pittiers office and then eventually in a basement room.
The Police Department acquires found items in a variety of ways. Generally once a week or so, someone is dispatched to various offices on campus that are designated areas for collecting lost items, such as the deans office in Clinton, Lindquist and Ahlberg halls, Ablah Librarys circulation desk or the mathematics department in Jabara Hall. The Heskett Center turns in items nightly, after the fitness centers lockers are checked at the end of the day. People also turn in items directly to the department, which is staffed 24 hours.
"We had a violin show up one time that someone had left in a parking lot," Pittier says, recalling one of the more unique items that has been turned in. When the owner was located through sheet music bearing a name inside the case, the police were told the violin was worth $25,000.
About every two years the Police Department organizes a garage sale to sell unclaimed items. Each sale brings in about $400-500, Pittier estimates. Shes planning to have a sale next summer. Items that dont sell eventually end up with nonprofit organizations such as the Childrens Home or the Salvation Army.
Abandoned bikes are usually sold every year because of limited storage space. Money from unclaimed wallets is also deposited into the scholarship fund.
The fund will soon get another deposit, when Pittier sells unclaimed textbooks among them an Associated Press Stylebook and "The Principles of Anesthesiology" to the University Bookstore at the end of the semester.
|Inside WSU is published by the Office of University Communications for Wichita State University faculty, staff and friends on biweekly Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. Items to be considered for publication should be sent to campus box 62 or Amy.Geiszler-Jones@wichita.edu 10 days before publication.|