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Staff Sgt. Latoya Straeter, an investigator for the 48th Security Forces Squadron, logs in the serial number of a mobile phone found on RAF Lakenheath. As part of her duties, Straeter helps run the squadron's lost-and-found program that holds onto lost jewelry, cash, credit cards and many other items until the rightful owner is found.
Staff Sgt. Latoya Straeter, an investigator for the 48th Security Forces Squadron, logs in the serial number of a mobile phone found on RAF Lakenheath. As part of her duties, Straeter helps run the squadron's lost-and-found program that holds onto lost jewelry, cash, credit cards and many other items until the rightful owner is found. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

It’s not unusual for Staff Sgt. Latoya Straeter to be handling expensive jewelry, wads of cash, numerous credit cards and cell phones. But the 25-year-old Augusta, Ga., native doesn’t pick pockets. She works as an investigator for the 48th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Lakenheath and helps run its lost-and-found program. Straeter also deals with abandoned vehicles on base. About 120 vehicles were towed from the base in fiscal 2006, she says.

What sorts of things turn up in the lost and found bin?

We get jewelry, clothing, wallets, ID cards, credit cards, keys, bicycles, mobile phones, data sticks and more.

What’s the most unusual thing that you’ve seen in there?

I’m not sure what to call them, maybe sorcerer swords. They were about two feet long, dull and made out of some sort of hard plastic.

The most expensive thing?

Diamond rings. We even had a Tiffany ring in here before.

If someone has lost something on RAF Lakenheath, what should they do?

For those who have lost something they can call 226-2333 during nonduty hours or 226-3723 during duty hours. Each unit also has their own lost-and-found program. The stuff that comes here is mainly found in common areas like the track or park.

Any advice to those who are prone to losing items?

Engrave your initials, name or contact information on the item, so that way if we do find something we know who to give it to.

We’ve had Jaguar and Mercedes keys with keyless entry, and we had no idea who they belonged to. So at the end of our 60-day period, we had to destroy them.

Sixty-day period?

We can only hold things for 60 days, after which point we have to destroy it or give it to charity like the Red Cross, First Sergeants Association, Airman’s Attic or thrift shop. We are also looking into donating off base as well.

What about abandoned vehicles on base?

After 63 days, we call Beck Row Auto Spares and they pick up the car. It basically becomes their property after that. They tow the car for free; that’s why we use them.

What’s the most expensive vehicle that went to the scrap yard?

We try not to mess with brand new vehicles. I’m talking about eyesores. Flat tires, extensive damage, expired road tax — we look for those sorts of things.

Other things that we look for is the improper display of your pink [base registration] card or road tax disc, because that’s a force-protection issue where we can impound vehicles regardless of how old or new it is. We do contact the owners repeatedly first via e-mail and post if needed.

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