SACRAMENTO, CA - It may not rank as one of America's busier airports, but on average, about 25,000 people go through Sacramento International Airport every single day. And every single one of those people has something that can easily be lost.
When we do lose something, we're glad there's a lost and found bin or department. But to be honest, many of us don't put a lot of faith into finding the item.
The good news, at the airport at least, is that the lost and found is an entire department with Sacramento County sheriff's deputies in charge.
"Belts and sunglasses and clothing rank up there as the number one items," said Deputy Kevin Givens, one of the lead individuals at the airport's Lost and Found.
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There, every item is logged into a computer so they can track it by airline, gate, day, time, flight and more.
"We can go back and say these sunglasses or this ATM card was found at this gate, at this date and time," said Givens.
But sunglasses and ATM cards are two of the less interesting items lining the shelves of the property room. A quick look through the bins reveals old records, hundreds of driver's licenses, wallets, and an abandoned screwdriver kit.
There are also items left behind that you would think the passenger would have noticed, like canes and umbrellas.
But what's the strangest?
"A big pack of fresh fish that was caught up in Alaska," said Givens. "Somebody simply forgot. It'd been traveling all day and was in that thawing process. It was starting to have a strong odor to it."
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The most impressive lost items are worth some big bucks.
There's an entire shelf filled with dozens of laptops, iPads, Kindles and more.
For those larger items there is a larger investigation. Electronic devices are searched by the sheriff's tech services to identify and notify an owner.
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Walking through the room, roughly the size of a doctor's exam room, Givens said, "What we have in here right now is just the tip of the iceberg."
About 1,000 items are turned in per month. After one month, the items are moved to a warehouse.
"It's enormous," Givens said. "It's like a Costco."
In 2012, more than 9,165 items were turned into lost and found. More than 2,235 of them were returned top their owners.
The unclaimed items can sit for more than three months at the warehouse. After that, good clothing and things like glasses are donated to the Salvation Army and Loaves and Fishes. Backpacks are given to children in need.
But whether returned to the original owner, or donated to a worthy cause, some more memorable items stick with those in charge of the area.
"I would have to say probably a diamond ring," said Givens. "A lady called, obviously very panicked. It was a pretty decent-sized ring and meant a lot to her, and we were able to return it. Sometimes people break down crying."
Givens said the lesson to be learned is don't assume your lost item is lost forever. You never know until you make the phone call.
"Because you'd be surprised how much jewelry items, or things that don't have a name on it, that we're able to reunite with the owners," he said.
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org