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Surrey tops 31 Canadian cities for people who’d take the money and run, survey says

55% would pocket cash they found on the street while 45% would hand it over to police in case someone claims it, respondents indicate
33928962_web1_cashUnsplash photo

Well, that’s not good.

According to a survey of 4,660 people in 31 Canadian cities, commissioned by, Surrey topped the list for participants who said they would keep money they found on the street rather than turn it in to police in case someone claims it.

Fifty-five per cent of Surrey respondents said they’d keep it and 45 per cent indicated they’d hand it in. Laval, Burlington and Windsor were the most honest bunch, with 30 per cent saying they’d keep it while 70 per cent said they’d turn it over.

The survey was conducted between Aug. 1 and Aug. 3, 2023. Respondents were asked: “You find $1,000 on the street. No one sees you picking it up. What do you do?” They were then asked to chose one of the following responses: 1. “I hand it over to the police in case someone claims it,” or 2. “I keep it.”

The responses were tallied by city, gender and age. Full data can be found here.

All told, of the 4,660 respondents 64 per cent said they turn the cash in and 36 per cent said they’d keep it. By a slight margin, women would be more likely to keep the money than would men.

As for their age, 14 per cent were ages 18-24, 16 per cent were 25-34, 17 per cent were ages 35-44, 20 per cent 45-54 years old and 34 per cent were ages 55-70.

Broken down by gender, 49 per cent were female, 50 per cent were male and one per cent didn’t classify their gender.

Thirty-seven per cent of females said they’d keep the money and 63 per cent would turn it in, while 35 per cent of males would keep the money and 65 per cent would turn it in. Thirty-six per cent of respondents who didn’t classify their gender indicated would keep the cash while 64 per cent would hand it over to police in case someone claims it.

The breakdown by cities has Surrey at the top, followed by Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Regina, Hamilton, Calgary, Gatineau, Edmonton, Greater Sudbury, Kitchener, Brampton, Burnaby, Halifax, Richmond, Vancouver, Toronto, Vaughan, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Oakville, Mississauga, Longueuil, Markham, London, Richmond Hill, Ottawa, Montreal, with Burlington, Windsor and Laval tying for most honest.

Meantime, Surrey criminal defence lawyer Marvin Stern told the Now-Leader that in Canada, someone who finds cash along with ID or an address but keeps the money without trying to contact the owner could potentially be charged with “theft by conversion” if caught.

“If you convert something to your own use, of which you know belongs to another party, then theft can crystallize at that point,” Stern said. “So if you come across a wallet, and there’s some ID in the wallet and $10,000 in the wallet and you just grab the cash and you use it for your own purposes, that can be theft, be seen as theft.”

His Newton law firm, Stern Albert Shapray, doesn’t often see such cases, though.

“What we do see once in a while is somebody will be in a park and they pick up a Safeway bag and its got a bunch of cash in it, and they do return it to the police, I’ve seen that happen, and what the police will do is they’ll give somebody an opportunity, they’ll hold it for a certain length of time and if nobody makes a claim then they’ll return it to the person who brought it in,” Stern noted. “That’s kind of the more lawful way to go about it.”

Keira Miller, an editor at, weighed in on the survey’s results. “The results certainly demonstrate an extremely interesting insight into whether Canadians would or would not keep money found on the street but I think this has raised a bigger question; is if people know this is an offence,” she said. “Whilst pocketing money on the street has parallels to winning the jackpot, it can be classed as theft and unfortunately, ‘finders keepers’ won’t hold up in a court of law.

“To avoid being guilty of theft,” Miller added, “the law requires the finder to make enquiries as to who the owner is and make efforts to return it where possible. The most obvious way of discharging this responsibility is to simply hand the money in at a police station.”

In the U.S., ABC News published an Associated Press story on Aug. 29 about a man in Connecticut who was charged with larceny three months after he found a bag containing $5,000 in a parking lot and kept it.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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