Cabbie cranky after lost phone destroyed

04:33, Mar 21 2013
LOST PROPERTY: Senior Constable Louise Martin in the central Christchurch police station lost property room. Privacy concerns mean smart devices handed in to police are now destroyed after a few months.

A Christchurch cabbie who handed a near-new Samsung Galaxy 3 phone to police after it was left behind by a passenger was "grumpy" to learn that even if it went unclaimed he had no chance of getting it back.

Wayne Bartlett was told the long-held policy of returning unclaimed items to the good samaritan no longer applied for smartphones.

After a few months had lapsed, police were destroying them.

A Canterbury police spokesman told The Press this was because of the "data privacy and security issue" regarding smart devices.

"Cellphones will not be returned to the finder if there is a risk they may contain private information. They may be handed back to the finder if not claimed, but only if it can be 'cleansed' of private information. Otherwise they would be destroyed," he said.

Bartlett called the rule "silly".


Most cabbies finished a weekend with a collection of items left on the back seat from "under the weather" passengers, he said.

With "a bit of detective work" he could usually track down the owner from a business card or a number listing for ''mum'' on the phone.

Items that were already flat, like the Samsung, ended up on the police station counter.

He took the phone to the Hornby police station, collecting a receipt in case it was never claimed, thinking, "I've got an iPhone but I could always do with a Galaxy".

Calling back five weeks later, the police lost and found department told him it did not return smartphones because of the privacy policy.

"I'm a grumpy old bastard who needs a hobby, but a $1000 cellphone, you've got to be kidding me," he said.

"You can wipe the phones remotely. Why would you not give it to a local kids' home? Why leave it on the shelf?"

The police spokesman said 30 to 40 lost items were handed in to the central Christchurch police station each week, the most common of which were wallets, handbags, phones, cameras, driver licences, bikes and passports.

Items of value were held for three months and then went to auction, proceeds of which went into the government consolidated fund, he said.

General items worth less than $50 were held for a month. Items worth more than $50 were held for two months.

Items of low or no value were destroyed.

The Press