Safekeeping in a police report refers to property received or seized by the police not deemed contraband (items unlawful to possess) or evidence of a criminal offense. It is assumed that property placed in safekeeping will be returned to the rightful owner.
Police officers routinely receive or seize property for a number of reasons. When that property is not contraband, items like dangerous drugs or illegal weapons and is not seized as evidence of a crime, the property is generally categorized as property received for safekeeping. The property is identified, logged and placed in a secure area until such time it is claimed by the owner or disposed of, if not claimed within a set period of time.
There are numerous types of property that may be booked into police custody for safekeeping. Usually, but not always, it is property with no known owner. Routinely people find lost property and turn it in to the local police department. This type of property known as “found property” is one of the most common examples of property taken for safekeeping.
When individuals are arrested, during the process of being booked into jail, routinely personal property, including cash, jewelry and other items of personal property, are taken from arrested persons. The person is provided an itemized receipt for the property. The property is then held in safekeeping until the person is released from custody.
Even motor vehicles are sometimes seized and held for safekeeping. Abandoned vehicles, vehicles belonging to persons who were subsequently arrested and potentially stolen vehicles are impounded.
Also, the police may seize weapons or other items belonging to a person who has threatened to harm himself.
The decisions concerning taking property into police custody are based on the circumstances surrounding police contact with the property and the probability of loss or theft if the property is not housed for safekeeping.
Safekeeping is primarily for the purpose of preserving property and preventing theft until the owner can be identified and contacted. A owner can claim it upon presentation of satisfactory proof of ownership and can resume custody.
Police agencies have a finite amount of storage capacity to house the many types of property that might fall into police custody. If after a reasonable period of time, commonly 60 to 90 days, an owner has not come forward to claim the property or been located, the property is disposed of according to that agency's policies. The property may be donated to a charity, sold at auction or destroyed, depending on the type of property in question.