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What to do when you find keys lying on the street

It’s not uncommon to see keys just lying around in the street, and there are many conscientious people out there who would love to return those keys to their rightful owners. Anyone could find those keys and break in, surely.

The reality is a bit different, because keys can only very rarely be traced back to a specific person or door.

Think about it: a standard house has a front door with two locks, a rear door, maybe an electrical cupboard. Plus maybe a key or two for the office, and possibly a car key. These are all the keys an average person has, and any one of them could be lying around on the street.

You don’t know whose it is, or which of their various locks the key is for.

It really could be for anything: the key to a safe full of gold bullion or the key to a padlock that nobody uses anymore. Yes, indeed, keys could have been deliberately thrown into the street.

So what options do you have?

Hand the key in to the police. Doing this will win you no friends at the police station, because they’ll have to file the key in a lost and found, when they know that nobody will ever come to pick it up. However, this option might be worth considering in the unlikely event that a key has clear identifying marks on it. If it’s possible to see which/whose door the key will open, then handing it in is a good idea.

Throw the key into the bin. This option means the key will be picked up by the local council at least once a week and it will be taken far away to a landfill site, where it will remain for the remainder of eternity. No chance for any nefarious people to pick it up, but it also makes it impossible for the key’s rightful owner to find it on the street.

Do nothing whatsoever. This option gives the owner of the key some time to find it, if they realise they’ve misplaced it. The owner probably has around 48 hours to retrieve the key before a street sweeper inevitably puts it into a bin (see above).

In my opinion, the laziest option is best in this case. There’s not much risk in leaving a key where it is, considering just how unlikely it is that a) anybody knows what the key is for; b) that there’s anything worth stealing/messing with behind the lock that the key opens; and c) that somebody would use this key for nefarious purposes.

Kudos to you, though, for being a conscientious citizen!

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