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If I lose my ID papers, credit cards or passport in the US, in order to report the loss, do I have to go to a specific type of police station (city, transit, state police), or could I just go to any of them, the closest police station when I notice I lost them?

EDIT : It looks like it all depends on the precise area I lost my papers. So if I notice the loss after a while - and as I lost them, I don't know where they are - how could I determine the precise area I lost them? Say I visit city A on day 1, city B on day 2, I notice on day 2 I lost them, maybe in city A, do I have to go back to city A?

As @Relaxed said, the French consulate requires a police report as a proof of loss/robbery. It sounds also natural - in France, at least - that police reports of loss/robbery are the standard proof to show to insurances for claims.

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    Why would you report it to the police at all? It would never occur to me to do so outside the US, I'd just head straight for the nearest consulate. – Dave Mar 3 '15 at 14:50
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    @Dave French consulates (maybe others too but I think that Vince, like myself, is a French citizen) generally expect a police report if your ID was stolen. There are probably ways around that requirement, especially if you are in a country where the police is not particularly helpful, but in principle that's the first thing you are supposed to do. – Relaxed Mar 3 '15 at 15:24
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    @Relaxed Presumably, the French consulate could help you figure out where to file the police report if you don't know, right? So if you're unsure, you still might go to the consulate first. – cpast Mar 3 '15 at 16:45
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As with all police matters, it is probably best to go to the police station that covers the smallest area that you are within.

  • If you lost your papers in a train station (large enough to have its own transit police), go to the transit police.
  • If you lost your papers in a city, go to the city police.
  • If you lost your papers outside a city, go to the state police.

If you don't know whether you are within a city or not, ask somebody. In large metro areas there may be multiple city police agencies (for example, if you're in northeast Dallas, you might need to visit the Plano Police).

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    Note that some places have county police also. You also may find things like our <city name> metropolitan police--one department that covers not only the city but nearby developed areas also. – Loren Pechtel Mar 3 '15 at 3:10
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    Outside of a city, you might also want to go to the sheriff, depending on the county. Most counties will have a county police or a sheriff, but that isn't always the case. – cpast Mar 3 '15 at 3:15
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The United States has a very complicated law enforcement system, it's often difficult to tell the difference between police and private security. For example, New York City transit police are real police. The ones minding the trains in many smaller cities are not, yet they have uniforms, radios, guns etc.

However, any law enforcement officer will know who is responsible for what in their area. If you do lose your papers just call the number on any police car you see driving by and ask. If he's stopped, walk up to the car and ask - they might take your report on the spot. You can also call 9-1-1 and ask for the non-emergency phone number (don't start on the story, just ask for the regular police phone number).

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    Note to answer editors: Phone books? How quaint. Becoming increasingly harder to find in many places. 9-1-1 doesn't mind if you ask for the regular number and then get off the line, same reason. And don't change other people's words. If you disagree, leave a comment or an answer of your own. – paul Mar 3 '15 at 15:26
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    I did not edit (and in fact upvoted) your answer but I was a bit surprised by this too. Is there by any chance any official guidance on whether you should call 911 in this situation? I think that in Europe, most countries try to publicize non-emergency numbers and discourage people from calling 112. – Relaxed Mar 3 '15 at 15:28
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    @Relaxed It's fairly standard advice in the US that it's acceptable to call 911 and immediately say "this is not an emergency," and they'll redirect you. It's not ideal to call 911 in that situation, but they don't mind, and in some places it's the main way to report non-emergency things. – cpast Mar 3 '15 at 16:48
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    One should not call 9-1-1 for situations that are not urgent emergencies. – gerrit Mar 3 '15 at 16:52
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    Interestingly enough, 911 is often handled by the same people as the non-emergency number. It merely sets the priority of the call. For example, I've called about non-emergencies before and been put on hold for a 911 call. This may not be the case everywhere though. – evandentremont Mar 3 '15 at 18:46
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It depends a bit on where you are, as there are a number of policing units from state police to country sheriffs to city police to university police to transit police. But ultimately, they can all file a report on the lost documents for you to present to your embassy.

On a general basis, if you don't know exactly where you lost them, then you would go to the city / metropolitan police for that town. They have the broadest jurisdiction and are the most likely place that lost documents would be turned in. And more specialized police (transit police, university police, etc) would have access to their database, should the lost documents be turned in to their office.

If you are certain you lost it on a train/bus or on a campus, then you could report the loss to those specific police. But otherwise use the main police force for the city.

If by chance you think you left it behind at a roadside truck stop or some other such place in rural areas, then either the local county sheriff (if you know approximately where) or the state police if you have been traveling and could have left it multiple places.

Ultimately notifying your embassy is the primary first step.

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