Asset Forfeiture

Poor and Minority Neighborhoods Bear the Brunt of Asset Forfeiture in Las Vegas

Data obtained by a Nevada think tank show where Las Vegas police use civil asset forfeiture.

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Larry MacDougal/ZUMA Press/Newscom

When Las Vegas police seized property through civil asset forfeiture laws last year, they were mostly likely to strike in poor and minority neighborhoods.

A report released last week by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank, found the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department raked in $1.9 million in asset forfeiture revenue in 2016. Two-thirds of those seizures occurred in zip codes with higher-than-average rates of poverty and large minority populations.

The 12 Las Vegas zip codes most targeted by asset forfeiture have an average poverty rate of 27 percent, compared to 12 percent in the remaining 36 zip codes. Clark County, Nevada, has an average poverty rate of 16 percent.

The 12 most targeted zip codes also have an average nonwhite population of 42 percent, compared to 36 percent in the other remaining zip codes.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police may seize property they suspect of being connected to criminal activity. The owner then bears the burden of challenging the seizure in court and disproving the government's claims. Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by cutting off the flow of illicit proceeds.

But a bipartisan coalition of civil liberties groups and lawmakers have been calling for the laws to be reformed, saying asset forfeiture's perverse profit incentives and lack of safeguards leadspolice to shake down everyday citizens, who often lack the resources to fight the seizure of their property in court.

"The most troubling aspect of this practice is that the seizing law enforcement agency directly profits from the forfeitures," NPRI researcher Daniel Honchariw said in a statement. "And in the vast majority of cases the value of the property seized is less than the likely legal fees needed to contest the seizure, making the whole process nothing more than a form of legalized theft—with the government as the perpetrator."

The NPRI report found that more than half of all 2016 seizures were for amounts under $1,000, and 28 of those seizures were for $100 or less. The lowest amount seized was 74 cents.

The findings are similar to a Reason analysis of asset forfeiture data in Chicago earlier this year. That analysis of more than 23,000 property seizures over a five-year period found that seizures tended to focus on the South and West Side of Chicago, predominantly minority neighborhoods with high poverty rates. Likewise, the median value of a seizure was around $1,000, far from major cartel busts.

Illinois does not require an accompanying criminal conviction to begin a forfeiture action. Thanks to civil asset forfeiture reforms passed in 2015, Nevada in most cases does. But in the civil process, property owners must pay for their own lawyer if they choose to contest a seizure, and prosecutors enjoy a lower standard of evidence to win their case than in criminal court. Police can seize cash, cars, and even homes allegedly linked to illegal proceeds.

Of the 295 police seizures that occurred in Clark County that year, all but 16 were connected to alleged drug offenses.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 20 states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reform in recent years. New Mexico and Nebraska, for example, completely abolished civil asset forfeiture.

The NPRI report concludes that the evidence "supports the position that the practice of civil asset forfeiture should be abolished completely. A system of criminal forfeiture, reliant upon the same due-process protections afforded to criminal defendants, should instead become the norm."

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40 responses to “Poor and Minority Neighborhoods Bear the Brunt of Asset Forfeiture in Las Vegas

  1. Obvious result is once again obvious

  2. New Mexico and Nebraska, for example, completely abolished civil asset forfeiture.

    How their law enforcement agencies are able to function without it is a mystery.

    1. Maybe they hold bake sales?

  3. Why is this at all relevant? I don’t know anything about LV but the mentioned areas of Chicago are where most of the crime is. It’s hardly surprising those areas are “targeted”.

    The policy should fall on its own lack of merit (not to mention Constitutionality), not on appeals to race and class.

    1. Shit, that post-it note above your desk that says “other people exist with different points of view and different priorities” must have fallen off the wall.

      1. I’m pointing out that appeals to race and class aren’t necessary. Moreover they can and often do backfire.

        Not seeing where I deny that other points of view exist.

        1. So un-woke. Logic has no place in appeals to emotion!

    2. The constitutionality argument could theoretically work on some conservatives (although it hasn’t, because cops are always exempt from law and morality). But you can’t appeal to universal human decency or the Constitution with the left anymore, you have to appeal to race and class. If this happened exclusively to people exclusively being investigated for white collar crime they would not care in the slightest

      1. Also, it is always relevant to know the impact of policy in general.

    3. Because defenders of the law would claim that even though it is constitutionally sketchy they are using it to go after the assets of a modern-day Pablo Escobar when in fact they are going after low-level street offenders rather than kingpins.

  4. 74 cents.

    1. Cop needed change for the coke machine. Ironically the a can from the machine cost 75 cents.

      1. Like rain on your wedding day.

        1. Drugs in the barrio…

  5. In other words: If you cannot afford a good lawyer in the US, the government can f*ck you.

    1. in the civil process, property owners must pay for their own lawyer if they choose to contest a seizure, and prosecutors enjoy a lower standard of evidence to win their case than in criminal court.

      Don’t want your shit taken, don’t be or know a maybe criminal.

      1. Or “look like” one, or be within a certain radius of crimes.

      2. It’s pretty obvious. If you don’t want to be treated like a thug, don’t get associated by others with places they imagine thugs are.

    2. Thw government can f*uck you even if you can afford a lawyer, it is just that the law of low hanging fruit means the government will prefer the easier pickings first.

    3. Wearing my Socrates hat today… Answering questions w/more questions…

      Q: How much justice can I get?

      Q: How much money, status, and power do you have?

      1. Wearing my Socrates hat today…

        Q: How much justice can I get?

        “I cannot help but note the engaging head wear with which you are adorned this fine day, Sincere One.” Thus speaks the individual wearing official garb in company of uniformed and well armed and armored defenders of people and homeland.

        Q: How much money, status, and power do you have?

        “In relation to your inquiry, which seems to imply that individuals such as yourself need ‘much money, status, and power’ to be equally represented within the bounds of civilized law and protected by our democratic systems of justice, the answer is quite clear: We are all of us equal in every respect.”

        “Now, hand over that hat.”

      2. Q: How much justice can I get?

        Q: How much money, status, and power do you have?

        Can you imagine a Juvenile Court judge “ordering” that a 15 yr old is not allowed to increase his education while incarcerated? I’m po’ white Appalachian trash- but my first year Chem teacher- who got me finished my sophomore year in 8 hrs while I was awaiting trial in jail, and worked for the Ohio Dep’t of Juvenile Corrections for the two previous years volunteered to come once a week to help me out during my jail time- denied.

        My first day of school while locked up was “addition”. I never finished the “subtraction” test in 8 months- I turned it over and just did calculus problems every day- and got an “A”.

        Care to guess the race of the judge…

    4. BEST F*CK EVAH!

  6. nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation

  7. No person shall be … deprived of … property, without due process of law

    1. If unlicensed dogs are not considered property, how can unlicensed cash be treated any differently?

  8. Poor and Minority Neighborhoods Bear the Brunt of Asset Forfeiture in Las Vegas

    Reason‘s appeal to progressive allies to demand more civil forfeiture from the white middle class.

    Thanks cucks!

    1. Yes, that’s a sensible take on this article.

      1. Exactly what a cuck would say, cuck.

            1. Before you embarrass yourself further I just want you to know that I’m so unlikable that I do not have any significant other. Thus, I cannot be a cuck. So, please don’t show your ignorance further.

              1. So you’re an out and out member of the alt right? Cuck.

                1. If going to Milo’s parties and standing in the corner being too afraid to make eye contact with anyone there makes me alt-right, then so be it.

                  1. All texting his mom to please come pick him up early, sweat-stained trilby all askew on his head.

  9. Poor and Minority Neighborhoods Bear the Brunt of Asset Forfeiture in Las Vegas

    As well they should! Asset Forfeiture is for the little people, anyway.

    No wonder the Keebler elf loves it so much. Makes him feel taller.

  10. Asset Forfeiture Occurs in High-Crime Areas

    BREAKING
    Sun Will Rise in East Tomorrow

  11. RE: Poor and Minority Neighborhoods Bear the Brunt of Asset Forfeiture in Las Vegas
    Data obtained by a Nevada think tank show where Las Vegas police use civil asset forfeiture.

    Well, at least the poor and the minority people in Las Vegas are somewhat soothed in the fact the stadium will be paid for the taxpayers of Nevada.
    I’m sure they wouldn’t want the owner of the Raiders to pay for something he’s going to be using eight days a year.

  12. We don’t need numbers to know it’s wrong, and that it must be stopped. It’s unconstitutional at face value.

    Now, that being said who gives a shit if it disproportionally has an effect on ‘poor minority’ neighborhoods? I mean, no offense, I’ve lived in those before and y’know what? There are a lot of places in those communities where you can go up to ‘that house on the corner there’ and buy your drugs and other illicit items.

    Unsurprisingly, you’ll find that in the suburbs but they have the good sense to hide it. I.E. the cops are going to have a really, really tough time finding you and they always go after the low hanging fruit first.

    The moral of this story, outside that it is a practice that should be stopped, is if you’re going to play the game don’t play it stupid.

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