Lost and found attracts variety of articles

May 16, 2005 2:45 AM

Heaps of belongings are lost daily in Las Vegas hotel rooms. Perhaps typical of lost and found departments throughout the city, Harrah’s on the Strip stores gone astray items on shelves stacked floor to ceiling.

Each article is well-guarded with a custodian keeping an eye on things around the clock. This resting place for orphaned possessions is highly-organized with items documented and tracked via computer, in case frazzled owners and seek a reunion.

You can practically hear the battle cry of belongings begging for recognition. "We find tons daily in the casino, in hotel rooms and any public places that you can think of," says Harrah’s Director of Security Joe Howard.

Howard comes up with all kinds of possessions. "There’s eyeglasses, any article of clothing you can think of, shoes, full suits, tuxedos, favorite pillows, cell phones, suitcases filled with clothing, and just about anything you’d take on vacation," He says.

If there’s a grand prize-winner for lost items, it’s probably the cell phone that hotel guests lose the most.aaaaaaaaaaaaa

After items are taken into custody, there’s a determination of value. If it’s less than $100 it’s logged into the database and held for 30 days. If it exceeds $100 dollars, it’s kept for 60 days

If the value is greater than $1,000, Howard determines how long it will be held. Regardless of the value, Howard says the department reunites 80 percent of lost items with their rightful owners.

Besides the "usual" lost items such as eyeglasses, cell phones, wallets and articles of clothing, the lost and found department receives scores of personal and somewhat unusual items.

"We find artificial limbs, such as legs and hands, expensive wheelchairs, crutches, some of which are never claimed," he says.

Howard is bewildered about how someone can leave behind an artificial leg. "How did they get out of the hotel?" he asks rhetorically. Then, after reflection, " The power of the casino heals them I guess."

People also leave behind cash, and when currency is found Howard handles it cautiously. Once, $15,000 was abandoned in a room safe at The Rio.

"That’s the most currency ever found to date at our properties, and it’s usually left in a safe," Howard says. "We have a safe tracking device in the event that the money was left by a guest."

Handling money is a delicate operation. The orphaned cash is deposited at the Harrah’s cashier’s cage. Taking no risk, a receipt is kept in the lost and found department, instead of the actual loot. The owner, who’s naturally euphoric when notified, will get a nice plump check in the mail, and not the original funds.

Expensive jewelry is also a common item left in hotel rooms. "A $45,000 Rolex watch was once found in a guest room here at Harrah’s," says Howard, adding that the room attendant who turned it in hit it big with a sizeable reward from the owner.

Pets get lost, too, and it’s an emotional experience, not only for the owners but for the security department when the four-legged family member is returned to its owner.

"We cornered a Shitzu (dog) in the buffet, and after a few hours the pet was claimed by a lady, who ultimately turned out to be a ”˜dognapper,’" Howard says. "The real owners called from Minnesota, so I put our investigators on the case and found the dognapper, who willfully turned over the Shitzu, but not before cutting all of its hair first."

Security and staff at Harrah’s became emotionally attached to the dog (named Weatherby), as he awaited a reunion with his rightful owners.

"They flew from Minnesota to Las Vegas to reclaim Weatherby, and the reunion was a moving experience," Howard says.

For lost items that aren’t claimed, Harrah’s creates happy endings of its own. "We’re really active with St. Jude’s, and we donate reading glasses to the Lion’s Club," Howard says. "We also give cell phones to a military charity, for families who have loved ones stationed in Iraq."

The one thing these families have is hope, and Howard is determined not to let them lose it.