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Unclaimed property flooding SFPD evidence room

San Francisco Examiner
BYLINE: Katie Worth, Examiner Staff Writer,

San Francisco, CA

Old cases: Boxes of evidence, some dating back to the 1940s, are stored in a Police Department warehouse. Cindy Chew/The Examiner

The Police Department has too much stuff.

Some 600 bicycles, untold marijuana grow lights, pieces of art, baseball bats, shopping carts, backpacks and thousands of other items have filled up its large warehouse evidence room. Some of it is evidence in crimes where an investigation is ongoing, but much of it is personal property that was never recovered or evidence in cases that have closed — some dating back to the 1940s.

In order to clear up some space, the Police Department will be assessing the items in its evidence room and determining what it may be able to return to the rightful owner, what can be auctioned off, what can be donated and what can be disposed of, Assistant Chief Jeff Godown said.

“We’re almost at max capacity,” he said.

Godown gave reporters a tour of the evidence room Wednesday in the wake of a series of scandals and embarrassments involving the crime lab and evidence rooms.

A month ago, the department halted drug testing at the lab after allegations that former criminalist Deborah Madden stole cocaine and other controlled substances from the lab. An audit by the California Department of Justice revealed further chaos in the department, including untenable caseloads, drugs left in cardboard boxes and other security problems.

The latest hit to the department’s reputation came with news reports of feral cats running wild in the evidence room. The cats have since been trapped and removed.

Godown, who was hired by Chief George Gascón from the Los Angeles Police Department, said he was giving the tour because “I want you to know it’s not as everybody assumes it is.”

However, he said, the department is facing a pending problem of overflow in the aging evidence room.

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