The Property Section, as element of the Support Services Division, has the overall mission to accept, catalog, safeguard, store, produce as required, return to legal owner or otherwise legally dispose of all property coming into the custody of the Columbia Police Department. As an evidence management system, the majority of the property managed by the Property unit is evidence required for criminal cases. However, other categories of property include the safekeeping of found property, decedent's property, seized contraband, seized peddler's property, serological evidence, as well as property confiscated for forfeiture proceedings.
The property received by this Section includes money, credit cards, narcotics, jewelry, firearms, various other weapons, general property of every description and value, and a wide range of vehicles. The incoming property is classified according to the nature of the acquisition, in other words; as evidence, as found property, or as personal, confiscated property. All the property is further categorized according to specific types (money, narcotics, valuables, firearms, and warehouse items) and are subject to strict legal and processing constraints. Evidence property is regularly signed out for presentation in criminal court proceedings. In some cases, evidence property may be retained by the Section for several decades, as criminal cases and potential appeals may surface at any time in the future. Property that can be legally returned to its rightful owner (or the owner’s representative) is processed in a timely manner. Narcotics, illegal firearms and seized contraband are destroyed when it is no longer required for legal proceedings. Unclaimed general property and vehicles are disposed through public auctions. Impounded vehicles are returned to their rightful owners (or the owner’s representative) upon payment of the levied charges.
The Property Section has a legal obligation to ensure that all retained property is maintained in a similar condition throughout the period that the property is under their custody. To satisfy that obligation, the Property Section is required to store the property in an environment that is free from exposure to the elements, and any other damaging or hazardous conditions. Additionally, critical to the overall management of the entire process is an effective and efficient information system that supports the tracking of all items from initial entry through to the final disposition.