Civil Liberties

Maine Cops to Ramp Up Asset Forfeiture Efforts


Small-town police departments in Maine say they'll be "securing more drug money and other assets seized from criminals to help stretch" their budgets, reports the Maine Morning Sentinel:

Police Chief Heidi Wilcox is ramping up her efforts to secure more drug money and other assets seized from criminals to help stretch the small town's police department budget.

Her efforts highlight how some area law enforcement agencies rely on asset forfeiture laws to offset funding gaps.

A local court recently ordered that about $835 in drug money, seized during an arrest made by Wilton police officers last year, will be handed over to the department. Police plan to use that cash and apply for state grants to buy three bulletproof vests, Wilcox said.

She described the criminal forfeiture laws as a vital law enforcement tool, especially for small town police forces struggling to keep up with rising costs amid residents' demands for budget cuts.

"There's a big financial burden to investigating these crimes and we do rely on drug forfeitures," [Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty] said. "When you have a search warrant, you may have 10 deputies, all on overtime and at high risk."

Liberty said seized drug assets—sometimes totaling in the tens of thousands—have been critical to his department in investigating drug crimes, as well as buying protective vests, weapons, training, and pay for overtime.

Fairfield Police Chief John Emery recently had a court order that $10,000 in cash seized during a drug bust will be handed over to the town police department. He noted getting the seized cash back, which requires court approval based on the certain legal guidelines, allows the department to keep targeting drug crimes without significantly increasing the town's financial burden.

"It benefits both the taxpayers and the department, and it takes the money out of the drug dealers' hands," he said of asset forfeitures.

He couldn't say this past week how much money the department has received from assets seized from criminals.

"It certainly helps offset the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on drug investigations," he said.

Seizing drug money and assets, however, are always an afterthought, Detective Lt. Carl Gottardi II of the Somerset County Sheriff's Office said.

"We don't do drug investigations to get the criminal forfeiture, because the goal is always to stop the crime."

Sure, and my name is David Bowie. 

Reason on asset forfeiture

P.S. "Survey: Maine ranked 'most peaceful' state"