Friday, January 18, 2013

Taxi Lost & Found Is Lost (Hint to Gale Brewer - it's the cops)

Taxi drivers often make heroic efforts to return lost property to passengers. The lost and found system has a flaw- it relies on cops. Taxi drivers are supposed to return items to specific precincts and tell the cop at the desk where the person who lost the item got in and got out of the taxi- but often these are unknown quantities.

I'll never forget the time I tried to return to NYPD some jewelry that had been left in my cab- given to me by a passenger. I had no idea who left the stuff, or when. I brought it to the appropriate precinct for the place the finder had gotten into my cab where the desk officer sent me off to the precinct that covered the place where the finders got out. There I was grilled like a suspect and "tripped up" by the desk cop who threatened me with an "LD six" or something like that. I left the precinct and called 911 hoping I could retrn the item to whoever would be dispatched but this was a plan that had no future whatever. Finally I went to the first precinct where an apparently gay desk cop accepted the item.  I later got an email from TLC telling me where to pick up the jewelry I had lost.

Now if I can't find the passenger (it's usually a cell phone and I wait to be called) I drop the phone off at my garage where they keep them in a safe.

Taxi Lost & Found Is LostMessage from Council Member Gale A. BrewerNew Yorkers lose a vast array of valuables, including wallets, computers, and cell phones – even the occasional rare violin – in taxi cabs every day. But it turns out that these items are not truly lost until they’re swallowed by the cryptic property recovery system of the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) and the New York Police Department (NYPD).An investigation by my staff has revealed that a New Yorker misfortunate enough to lose her property in a taxi is more likely to find overwhelmed hotlines and contradictory instructions than she is to recover her missing possession. The recovery process is a long ride to nowhere, but it can’t even get started unless the unfortunate passenger happened to keep her taxi meter receipt. Without a lot of time and patience, her chances of ever seeing her property again rely not on a modern tracking system but old-fashioned luck and the good will of your driver and the next passenger.Posing as customers who lost possessions in taxis, members of my staff tried to follow the TLC’s instructions for recovering property, and followed up their findings by contacting several city officials for comment.The current system is not easy to summarize, but it will remind those New Yorkers unlucky enough to use it of the days before 311 became THE number to call.Taxi Lost & Found is LostCouncil Member Gale A. Brewer