Trying to find an item left on an LIRR train is almost as bad as finding a needle in a haystack, according to a report issued Tuesday by the MTA’s inspector general’s office.
The 15-page study found that the transit agency’s lost and found office, located in Penn Station, is a mess and poorly maintained with items scattered in bins and shelves and listed in an inefficient database.
Barry Kluger, the inspector general, said the problems hurt commuters since many have to endure long waits to get missing items back, or worse, the goods can’t be find at all
“A rider who loses something of value, whether monetary or sentimental, has the right to expect that if the property is turned in to the lost and found office, the office will safeguard and return it,” he said.
The IG’s office conducted a review of the LIRR’s lost and found department after it received a complaint from a commuter. The man recovered his missing wallet from the office, however discovered a $200 gift card was missing.
The LIRR is required to catalog and hold onto lost items depending on their value as goods under $99 are required to be held for three months while ones larger than $5,000 have a three year retention period.
The IG’s office asked the lost and found staff to locate 20 items typically found in its database of discovered goods, including iPads, a backpack and a passport, and only 12 could be found. The IG staff had to wait as long as half an hour before they received the lost good.
The investigation found that identity related items, such as passports and licenses, isn’t monitored by cameras and some of the goods aren’t in locked bins. Kluger said one of the biggest flaws in the LIRR’s lost and found was its computer record database, which contained incomplete and inaccurate information, in some cases missing how much cash was in a missing wallet, and didn’t have an audit log to show when information was entered or deleted.
“Obviously, as our findings make clear, major improvements are necessary for the lost and found Office,” Kluger said in a statement.
In response to the report, the LIRR said it valued the report and has begun work to enhance its lost and found office, including implementing a stronger database, more formal audit process, and purging items that remain longer than the retention period.
“The Lost & Found is an important customer service and our goal is to do the best job we can better reconnecting customers with their lost property,” the agency said in a statement.
Kluger noted that a review of New York City Transit’s lost and found office prompted changes that greatly improved service.
“We fully expect the Long Island Rail Road will make the improvements necessary as the MTA did when we brought those concerns years ago,” he said.