SEBRING - If you lost cash at a Publix in Sebring on Feb. 23 or money in Washington Heights on Nov. 1, you might want to contact the Sebring Police Department.
But don't expect an undeserved windfall by making a claim just on the off chance that on those days some money fell out of your pocket and you didn't realize it.
Sebring Police Officer Rick Little, who is in charge of evidence, said he expects such a caller to provide some details about the loss, such as the amount of money and the denominations of the bills.
"You have to convince me it's yours," Little said. "We're all about wanting to return the property to the rightful owner."
Sgt. Manual Gonzalez, who is in charge of evidence at the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, agreed that someone who claims money or any piece of property must describe it to the point where it's clear they are the owner.
If someone turned in a wallet and "if they (the caller) don't know the color of the wallet, it may be an indication they're not the owner," he said.
On a continuing basis, both the Sebring Police Department and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office receive wallets, bicycles, cash, cell phones, jewelry and various other items. Typically, a resident finds the item and gives it to a police officer who then gives it to the evidence officer.
In some cases, the police officer finds the object and then gives it to the evidence officer.
Little said that under state law the finder can potentially keep the property, provided they express intent to make such a claim at the time they give the property to the officer. Then if after 90 days the owner doesn't come forward, the finder would get the item, he said.
But, if the finder doesn't make a claim for money, then in the case of the Sebring Police Department, the money goes to the city. In the case of the sheriff's office, it goes to the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners.
Although law enforcement often deals with criminals, in returns of property, they see another side of residents.
Gonzalez said there have been cases of people turning in more than $1,000.
In Sebring, Little said, someone recently handed in a wallet with $300. After much effort, he said, he located the owner and returned the wallet and the money.
A few years ago, he said, someone found $2,000 in a doughnut shop. The owner was never found and the finder got to keep the money, he said.
Little said he believes a truck driver may have stopped there and dropped the money.
Sometimes people call in and report they lost money, but it doesn't match what Little received, he said.
As to whether the caller really lost money or was trying to make a false claim, "I have no way of knowing," Little said.