The Detroit News is reporting that local police departments are making millions of dollars in revenue from the wrongful seizure of property.
According to the article, the police seize the personal property suspected in crimes, but very often no charges were filed and sometimes the police even admit that no crime was ever committed.
The money raised by seizing property in the Detroit Metro area skyrocketed by more than 50% to $20.62 million dollars between 2003 and 2007, according to police records obtained by the Detroit News.
At some police departments, the amount of money collected went from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands and, at one police department, went into the millions of dollars.
Innocent people whose property is seized by police still end up paying upwards of $1,000 or more to get their seized property back, so the police departments have a strong financial incentive to seize property for revenue purposes.
According to Jacque Sutton, a 21 year old college student whose car was seized by police during a raided party, this is nothing more than “legalized stealing.”
Sutton added “According to the law, I did nothing wrong — but they’re allowed to take my property anyway. It doesn’t make sense.”
Although courts typically uphold the government’s right to seize property involved in crimes, police seizures are a growing source of controversy in Michigan, especially since police departments are struggling to balance budgets.
Some law enforcement professionals excuse the increase in property seizures as a result of diligent ( victims might say overzealous ) law enforcement.
Police and local prosecutors profit from these seizures because people must either pay to get their seized property back or lose their property to the law enforcement agencies, which will auction off the seized property.
Seizure laws have expanded over the years to allow the seizure of personal property that was only loosely connected to an alleged crime.
Police can now seize property for minor infractions that would not have resulted in seizures before, including minor drug possession, gambling or even being near illegal activity.
Source: Detroit News