Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year

Washington Post, By Christopher Ingraham, November 23

Here’s an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.

Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

Armstrong claims that “the police are now taking more assets than the criminals,” but this isn’t exactly right: The FBI also tracks property losses from larceny and theft, in addition to plain ol’ burglary. If you add up all the property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and other means, you arrive at roughly $12.3 billion, according to the FBI. That’s more than double the federal asset forfeiture haul.

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  • Civil Forfeiture results from a ‘civil dispute’ between law enforcement and property in which the property is considered guilty of a crime. Not being a citizen, the property is not entitled to Due Process.

    Proponents claim there are few misapplications, but then, they said the same about no-knock, paramilitary raids by police:

    “”If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern.”
    —Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006.”

    Now the Cato Institute maintains an interactive map showing just that: “widespread pattern of violations” but we haven’t heard anything further from Justice Kennedy on the matter. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the Supremes to put a stop to either practice.

  • The feds have resumed a controversial program that lets cops take stuff and keep it

    Washington Post, By Christopher Ingraham, March 28

    The Justice Department today announced that it is resuming a controversial practice that allows local police departments to funnel a large portion of assets seized from citizens into their own coffers under federal law.

    The “equitable-sharing” program gives police the option of prosecuting asset forfeiture cases under federal instead of state law. The Justice Department had suspended payments under this program back in December, due to budget cuts included in last year’s spending bill.

    “In the months since we made the difficult decision to defer equitable sharing payments because of the $1.2 billion rescinded from the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the financial solvency of the fund has improved to the point where it is no longer necessary to continue deferring Equitable Sharing payments,” spokesman Peter J. Carr said.

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