Police auction off unclaimed property

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ST. PAUL — Treasure hunters got their pick of items with stories behind them, as the St. Paul police department auctioned off unclaimed property.

The city was selling goods recovered in investigations, such as from burglaries or items left in abandoned and towed cars, said Sgt. Kurt Hallstrom, who is in charge of the department’s property room and impound lot.

“You name it, and I’d be willing to bet we have one or had one,” Hallstrom said. “Someone once called to report a sword in a tree, and sure enough, we go out there and there’s a sword in a tree.”

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The city does its best to return property but usually isn’t able to identify the owner, he said.

The city sells abandoned and unclaimed cars at separate impound lot auctions and online auctions. Monday’s auction was conducted by Hiller Auction Service.

A lot of the items sold by the city Monday in Zimmerman looked like the booty from dozens of garage burglaries: lawn mowers, snow shovels, barbecue grills and car speakers.

Some of the stuff was sold in odd combinations. If you wanted a paint sprayer, you had to buy the bowling ball, too. The skateboard was with a box of screws. Fishing equipment came with a crowbar. A box of laundry detergent came with a bunch of tools.

The goods were on flatbed trailers, with the auctioneers taking bids rolling from trailer to trailer sitting on top of truck-mounted sound systems.

Jerry Korhonen, 67, of Proctor spent $30 for a box of jewelry. Most of it was junk, but Korhonen said his eye was caught by a necklace that was labeled 14 carat.

“I don’t know if it’s real or it it’s fake,” he said. But he also found an antique gold Elgin watch that he estimates was made in the 1950s or ‘60s. It was still ticking.

“I don’t care where it comes from,” he said, putting it on his wrist.

St. Paul has recently been getting about $1 million a year in vehicle auctions, according to city officials. But the amount of money from Monday’s auction was expected to be much less, Hallstrom said.

“Certainly, we’re talking less than $10,000 a year in auction revenue,” he said. “It’s not a windfall for the police department.”