Security of Lost Property at Long Island Rail Road Lost and Found Office

MTA/OIG #2015-10

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) maintains a Lost and Found Office (LFO) centrally located in Penn Station to facilitate the return of property. In 2013 alone, the LFO accepted over 15,500 items ranging from umbrellas to expensive electronics.

The Office of the MTA Inspector General (OIG) received a complaint from an LIRR customer who had lost his wallet on a train. Upon receiving positive confirmation from a LIRR employee that the item was in the LFO, the customer went to retrieve it but the wallet could not be located by LFO staff. After a protracted search, the contents of the wallet were eventually found on the floor, missing two gift cards having a combined value of over $200. The customer later learned from the MTA Police that an unknown individual had used one of the gift cards at a store in Long Island. Neither the MTA Police nor LIRR was able to determine when the gift cards had been removed from the wallet or by whom.

In response to this incident and other complaints received about lost property, OIG conducted a review to determine the adequacy of security and protection of property at the LFO. We found that the LFO needs to better safeguard and facilitate the return of property to its rightful owner. For example, the LFO should more closely control access to the interior of the storage room and more tightly secure property particularly at risk of theft, including jewelry, computer tablets, smart phones, and identity documents. Of particular importance, management must bring the LFO into compliance with the legally-mandated property-retention requirements, which will help reduce clutter, promote efficiency, and further the timely and appropriate disposition of property, LIRR accepted all our recommendations and agreed to implement them.