Police manage evidence room carefully

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
A mixer and bicycles are among the items at fleet management, which sells unclaimed evidence.

The items in the sheriff's evidence room, as spelled out in a court order last week, are mostly what you would expect.

 

Glass crack pipes, spent bullet casings, fingerprints and dozens of guns are among the hundreds of items to be disposed of or sold.

Included among the usual suspects, though, are an empty potato chip bag, a leaf blower and a waitress's green apron with notebook.

Together, the items form the vast array of property and evidence collected on a daily basis by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. From January to March alone, roughly 1,200 pieces of evidence and found items were taken in.

"Ideally, we'd like more items going out than in," said Sgt. Ken Eskew, because storage space is precious.

Disposing of evidence isn't as easy as cleaning out the garage, though.

Eskew first does online research into which court cases have been closed. The evidence associated with those cases is added to a list for disposal or sale. Also added to the list are items of found property that have not been claimed in 90 days.

The list goes to a judge's desk for approval. The last step is a legal classified advertisement to give residents notice of the pending sale or disposal.

Whatever isn't claimed becomes property of the county and Ron Crowden's responsibility. Crowden heads fleet management and puts the valuable items for sale on a government auction Web site called govdeals.com.

All told, the items sold last year brought in about $22,400 for the county's general fund after the Web site's 7.5 percent fee.

Selling lost property isn't the same as claiming goods under forfeiture law. Forfeiture means that the sheriff's office petitions a court to give it items that were purchased through ill-gotten means. It's most commonly associated with drug dealers' cash, guns and equipment.

Unlike auction money, forfeiture money has to be spent specifically for the costs of criminal investigations, such as overtime pay.

Some evidence is kept for years as a conviction's appeal winds through the courts. Biological evidence, such as DNA, is stored at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's laboratories. But the items that supplied that evidence -- a bloody shirt, for instance -- are stored locally.

"We keep those indefinitely," Eskew said.

GovDeals.com Listing for Augusta, GA