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All Is Not Lost with New Online Lost & Found Claims

Paul Fleuranges: I'm Paul Fleuranges, with an In the News podcast on TransitTrax, New York City Transit's podcast service.

They arrive by the bag full...

(Sound: Bags dropping on the floor.)

Items left behind on subways, buses, and in stations. While each has a different owner, and were lost at different points across the system, they all share one final destination.

(Sound: Operator on phone: "Good Morning. Lost Property, good morning. Okay. On the train or the bus?")

Now, instead of calling in to find an item...

(Sound: Key strokes on a computer)

Subway and bus riders can go online. And in a few key strokes, and click or two of a mouse, file a Lost Property Inquiry Claim Form through New York City Transit's new Lost and Found webpage. The new website was designed by programmers from New York City Transit's Technology and Information Services Division. Sohaib Mallick, is Senior Director for Internet Technologies.

Sohaib Mallick, Internet Technologies: The way it has been developed it will ask you real simply, your name, address, what did you lose, you'll get the chance to go through categories, sub-categories. So if you lost a shirt or a pen, it will ask you for the color, the size. If you lost a coat it will ask you for the size. So once we get all the details it is good for the customer as well as us to go through the matching process.

Paul Fleuranges: Once a customer finishes filing the claim, the system will let him or her know if there's a match in the database. If there is, they are instructed to call or visit Lost and Found. If not, they're told to keep a system generated reference number close at hand.

Sohaib Mallick: Once a customer goes through the entry process he or she will receive a reference number that they could use to inquire about their items online. That way they do not have to call.

Paul Fleuranges:Melanie Hazel is Chief Support Officer for the Department of Subways, and helps run the Lost Property Unit.

Melanie Hazel, Lost Property Unit:This new web-based program for lost property will help the employees located at the Lost Property Unit by reducing the incoming calls that we get as well as the frequency of visitors by customers who have lost items.

Paul Fleuranges:Each week, Lost and Found logs in thousands of items; some 19-thousand last year alone. Items that range from the mundane to the downright strange.

Melanie Hazel: We log in about 19-thousand items a year, and most typical type of items we get turned in are wallets, and keys, and books, and cell phones, we get a lot of cell phones including the iPods. Now we get unusual items turned in, prosthetic legs, and false teeth, used pots, wigs...those type of things.

Paul Fleuranges:Each item is stamped.

(Sound: Stamp depressing)

If an item has ID, Lost and Found will contact the owner. All items are logged into the unit's computer database, a database which has been modernized to interface with the online system. Last year, about 42 percent of items returned to the Lost and Found were claimed. A percentage Hazel says the unit hopes to improve upon.

Melanie Hazel:Well we hope it will increase. We're not sure exactly by what percentage it will be increased. We're looking for at least a 10-percent increase in returning the items to the customers.

Paul Fleuranges: If you don't want to file an online claim, you can still visit Lost Property, located on the mezzanine below the 8th Avenue A, C, and E lines at 34th Street/Penn Station. There you can speak with a representative or use a new Kiosk to file an electronic claim. The new web-based system can be found online at www.mta.info. Once there, click on New York City Transit and you'll see a banner for Lost and Found. Talk about letting your fingers do the walking.

For TransitTrax, I'm Paul Fleuranges. Thanks for listening and thanks for riding with New York City Transit.