SAN DIEGO - Lindbergh Field’s lost and found is bursting at the seams with piñatas, posters and prosthetic limbs. Also in the small room is a troubling sign of the times: an increasing number of travelers leaving their belongings behind on purpose.
Deep in Terminal 2, you will find a tiny room packed to the brim with strange and unusual items. It’s officer James Taylor’s domain, and he tells 10News he has seen it all.
“I’ve received a prosthetic arm, a bar stool, a sledgehammer, X-rays and large amounts of money: $5,000 and up,” said Taylor.
The lost and found receives a staggering average of 1,200 items a month, with about 25 percent returned to owners. It is a return rate the airport considers high, and it is mostly thanks to Taylor. He calls himself a detective.
“Twenty-four seven, 365 I’m busy,” says Taylor. “Some of my friends here at work will give me a hard time when they see me looking through an iPad, trying to find someone’s information. They’ll say, ‘Oh, here he goes again, trying to solve the crime.’”
It is a job he takes seriously. There are multiple drawers full of iPhones, Blackberries and Androids left behind. Taylor brought in chargers to keep them on, just in case someone calls looking.
10News reporter Natasha Zouves got an inside look at the lost and found. In the past three months alone, Taylor says 3,600 items have landed there, including: 120 keys, 110 jackets and more than 100 bags. Incredibly, all of it will be gone in 90 days.
Much of what is not returned is auctioned off. The airport tells 10News $20,000 goes back to its general operating fund every year from the auction. Unclaimed bags are given to Harbor Police to train drug-sniffing dogs. Headed to the auction now, is a lost purple designer wallet.
“A Hermes bag! Which is a very expensive brand, I’ve come to find out,” said Taylor.
If the lost and found is bursting at the seams these days, Taylor says all you have to do is look around the airport to see why.
“They’re traveling with their whole lives with them, it seems,” said Taylor. “And because of that, mistakes are made.”
We spotted travelers loaded down with carry-on bags, many trying to dodge the check-in fees. One traveler admitted to just that.
“I have my purse, my laptop and my backpack and it is quite heavy, quite straining on the shoulders and neck,” said Aimee Taylor. “But it’s not all mine! I’m trying to help my mom and grandma.”
James Taylor says he is also seeing a sign of the times: not only are people forgetting more, they are willing to leave more behind.
“People have been coming to the airport and realizing they don’t have enough money to fly with the bags that they brought,” said Taylor. “They make the conscious decision to leave those bags on the curb because they can’t afford to travel with them.”
The numbers reflect this observation. In the last year at Lindbergh Field, 280 bags were left behind. Compare that to 100 bags in just the last three months.
The Associated Press reports you can expect a $25 fee for your first check-in bag, $35 for a second, and 10News found up to $125 for a third. Only 37 percent of Americans who check their bags find these rates reasonable, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey.
But Taylor says as long as people keep forgetting or leaving their things behind, he will be in the lost and found, trying to get it back to you.
“One time a woman called me, crying and crying, she lost her wedding ring here and her husband was serving overseas. She said it was the only thing she had here that connected her with him,” said Taylor. “When I get to call her back and say, ‘I have it! I have it!’ it’s the most gratifying thing in the world.”
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