San Francisco woman working to reunite stolen luggage with rightful owners

It's a story that's become all too common. Visitors come to San Francisco only to have their luggage or backpack stolen. But, one woman is working to reunite visitors with their lost luggage one bag at a time.

The sight of broken windows on a rental car is something no sightseer wants to see. After thieves go through the bags and luggage, they're often ditched elsewhere in the city, with no way for the victim to know where to look.

Dozens of those bags have found their way through Andrea Carla Michaels' San Francisco apartment. As first reported by the Chronicle, part do-gooder, part sleuth, Michaels says she inspects each bag she finds for clues about the owner. "So, I look at, you know there's receipts," said Michaels.

She estimates that over the years she's reunited about 50 people with their luggage. "I want to be able to still show people that for every person who smashes the window that there are 100 people who will get it back to them," said Michaels.

Michaels has already made a reputation for herself sourcing food that restaurants are getting rid of and getting it to the needy. She says that's what takes her up and down alleyways in the city, where she finds a lot of the lost luggage. "It's not the folks in the alleys that did the smash and grabs, but the gangs are the total miscreants," said Michaels.

Michaels says thieves take the valuables and leave the rest of the items in the bag, items she uses to track down the rightful owner. "There's always a medication bottle in there, and then I'll call that pharmacy or there's a boarding pass."

Michaels says she remembers finding a marriage certificate for a couple from Portugal and using that to help track them down. Like many she reunites she says they were initially suspicious they were being conned since they'd already been victimized, she says after convincing them of her intent that all changed. "It gradually turns into their just being unbelievably grateful and happy and sweet and appreciative," said Michaels.

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Michaels says police would be too overwhelmed to go through the seemingly never-ending stream of stolen luggage to search for the clues and do the legwork to get it back to the owner, she says that's where amateurs like her can step up.

She says she's launched a website, aimed at connecting people who've found luggage with those who've lost it.

For more information, go to Lost and Found San Francisco:


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