Boxes and boxes of confiscated items from regional airport TSA checkpoints arrive at a Harrisburg warehouse by the truckload. "Right here is where we sort the TSA items that have been voluntarily surrendered at TSA checkpoints at airports throughout the mid-atlantic region which would be Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey and New York." says Troy Thompson, Spokesman for the PA Department of General Services.
All the items are shipped or trucked in as part of the federal surplus property program. "We actually have an agreement with the Lancaster County Technical School to actually go up and use it as part of their trucking driver training program to pick up the items."
Three state employees are then tasked with sorting, separating and boxing each item. Thompson says, "It's tedious because as you can see there are a lot of items in here and some of them sharp items. It`s a very tedious operation."
According to Thompson, there are plenty of hand tools and power tools which are often confiscated from contractors and carpenters. "You can`t take them onto the plane. You have to use your checked baggage. You show up to the TSA with a bag full of tools and they are gone. They wind up here for sale."
For sale. Either online or in the state`s retail store. "Since 2004 we've been in operation and we've been able to generate two million dollars in income. So it has been a profitable business for us."
Each item is separated and placed in its proper box. They are then weighed, photographed and given a lot number. Then they are put up for sale online or in the retails store. The same airports also turn over their lost and found items like sunglasses, luggage, belts, canes, strollers, and clothing. New clothing is sold. The rest is donated to local charities.
Watches by the hundreds also end up here. Thompson says every watch is examined to determine the brand and whether it's real gold or not and if it will be sold individually or as a lot. "If you do come up with a Seiko or Citzen or an Invicta type of watch, that watch will would probably fetch us more online as a single unit."
But not everything is for sale. "We will not sell any item for example like a brass knuckles or any item that has compressed gas, a canister. Anything that would would equate to a concealed weapon. For example the credit card knives. We will not sell those items because there is a reason why they were confiscated as prohibited weapons."
Those items along with the overabundance of other items that don't sell well, like thousands of cork screws, are put together and sold for scrap to be melted down.
In 2016 sales totaled nearly 295 thousand dollars. Money that goes back to the program. "That pays some of the costs for the gas we would pay for the technical school and the equipment that we have to use, the staff that work in this area"
Online sales in 2016 brought in 225 thousand dollars, while the retail store brought in about 70 grand last year.
The retail store brings in shoppers like Christine Troup of Chambersburg who always finds a deal of two. "At one point I found a beautiful pair of Serengetti sunglasses made in japan. One dollar! I look at the books. Right now I`m looking for good leather. It's hard to find good leather right now. S o if you find old belts they might be a better quality leather. That`s what I`m looking for."
Pretty much everything and anything.. either confiscated or left behind in airports. Thompson says, "Skateboards, hover boards athletic equipment and things like that. There is just a wide variety of things. It's kinds like a mini department store."
The surplus retail store is located at 2221 Forster Street in Harrisburg. It's open Monday-Friday from 8:00am - 3:00pm. The online items can be found at GovDeals.com and search PA surplus property. Online buyers do pay for shipping costs.
Not everything lost is sold. A wedding ring was returned. It was attached to a key ring that included a AAA tab. So the ring owner was tracked down. Also, a championship boxer ring was returned to its rightful owner.