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Up for auction: Crime evidence, unclaimed lost items from West Chester’s police property room

A hodgepodge of property that was either evidence in a crime or found on the streets of West Chester Twp. will soon be available for purchase in an online auction. And starting prices are one cent.

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A growing number of police departments, including West Chester, are selling evidence from criminal cases where the appeals have been exhausted as well as other unclaimed property.

A growing number of police departments, including West Chester, are selling evidence from criminal cases where the appeals have been exhausted. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

The sales dosn’t typically bring in a lot of cash — $5,097 in 2014, $4,884 in 2013, and less than $100 in 2012 — but West Chester Officer Joshua Cupp, one of the township’s evidence room gatekeepers, said every dime helps boost the township’s coffers. 

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“Anything that has value we can’t just dispose of it, we’ve got to be trackers of our own funds … we’ve got to be good stewards of the township money,” he said.

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Not all items are approved for sale though.

Out of the most recent list of 220 items, Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster ordered a Black Desert Eagle Replica Airsoft gun with magazine and other gun-like items be destroyed rather than sold.

While a BB gun isn’t illegal, Officer Ernie Malott said the township and the judge didn’t want to take a chance the items become part criminal activity and have the township traced as the seller.

“You hear it all the time now that (a criminal) pulls out a fake gun and (someone) gets killed,” Malott said.

West Chester Police officers Ernie Malott, left, and Joshua Cupp show the lockers used to transfer evidence into the evidence room at the West Chester Police Department. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

The rest of the items — a wide assortment of electronics, knives, tools, jewelry, even clothes — will soon be listed for sale on PropertyRoom.com, according to Cupp.

Found property and items that aren’t needed for court cases — or ordered destroyed by a court — are held for at least 90 days. If the owner doesn’t claim it, the person who turned it in can claim it before the the township puts it up for auction.

All items are logged in through a computer system and stored in lockers of various sizes inside the township’s Beckett Road police station.

“It’s very critical that this stuff is very detailed because we’re essentially the safeguards,” Assistant Police Chief Brian Rebholz said. “We’re the holder of somebody else’s property and we take that very seriously.”

Some of the unclaimed lost bicycles that are stored in the West Chester Police department evidence room. The items will soon be listed on an auction site for sale. (NICK GRAHAM/STAFF)

Cupp and Malott said they make every attempt to locate the property owners, and are required to advertise in the local paper before they send property to auction.

It’s not a detailed list, but if someone has lost something, like two 2015 Central High and one Kennedy High School class ring that are going on the auction block, they can possibly retrieve them.

“It gives the public a last ditch effort of, ‘Oh I did lose something.’ Maybe I should call and check,” Cupp said.

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