Last year:

Investigators handed 26 items, including clothes, phones and cameras, to transit workers, “explaining that they had found the lost articles on a train or bus.”

But, the report states, “Three months or more after these items were placed in the system, we recovered only three from the Lost Property Unit at 34th Street. The whereabouts of the other 23 articles is unknown.”

Last year:

The report said that the transit agency’s lost property unit received more than 8,000 items each year and that only about 18 percent wound up back in the hands of their owners. Most unclaimed items were eventually auctioned off, the report said.

This year:

While riding in the New York subway, Carlos Alayo found a wallet sitting on an empty bench. In a hurry to get to a meeting, Alayo picked up the wallet and said he was going to check it for ID later. Before he knew it he was being frisked by police.

It turns out the wallet was planted by New York City police as part of “Operation Lucky Bag,” a decoy operation involving planted wallets and undercover officers watching how bystanders react.

I can imagine the conversation:

“This is a public relations disaster. Now that people know that practically nothing they hand to officials ever gets returned to its rightful owner, they’ll stop handing stuff in and we’ll lose the auction profits.”

“I’ve got it: we’ll start a sting operation to make people scared to return anything to its rightful owner!”