"Finders, keepers" for those who find unclaimed cash in Winchester

WINCHESTER, Va.

The city of Winchester is changing how it will deal with lost items that are brought to the police department.

Officials at the Winchester Police Department said lost money that is handed over to authorities will always be returned to someone.

All property, whether money or personal property, will be treated the same, and if after 60 days the proper owner doesnt claim it, the money can then be returned to the finder, said Winchesters chief of police, Kevin Sanzenbacher

But that wasnt the case before Tuesday night, when council decided that lost money would no longer go to the citys general fund if it wasnt claimed within two months.

The debate over what to do with lost and found money began in November, when someone found about $2,000 in cash at a gas station near National Avenue in Winchester and turned it in to city police.

According to chief Sanzenbacher, everyone was taken aback when money was turned in and later, when the finder wanted to keep the cash if it wasnt claimed.

Well, that was the first time in my tenure that anybody had turned that amount of money in and was looking to have it returned, he said, So, we werent really sure if, legally, we could do that. So we went and looked at the city ordinance, and there seemed to be some ambiguity in the..ordinance about whether we could return it.

Sanzenbacher said he was struck by the fact that the old code allowed unclaimed property to be given back to the finder, but unclaimed money had to be turned over to the city.

It seemed to be inconsistent. I mean, you could turn over a Ferrari and we could give it back to the claimant, but $200 would have to go back to the general fund, and I didnt think that was consistent with the values of city council, or the city in general.

While he says this type of event is is uncommon, Sanzenbacher believes the new course of action for lost and found cash is better suited for the city.

If this happens again in the future, then well have a clear path, and a clear direction of – from city council – how thats to be disposed.

A spokesperson for the city of Winchester said city council did not hold a discussion regarding the chiefs recommendations before they were approved during Tuesdays meeting.

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