Minnesota Cops Are Dismantling Criminal Organizations At Less Than $1,000 A Pop

from the oh-wait-i-guess-that-isn't-doing-jackshit-to-the-crime-rate dept

Law enforcement officials love to defend asset forfeiture. While sidestepping the fact that it almost always directly enriches the agency doing the forfeiting, these officials love to claim it's an invaluable tool that helps cops dismantle dangerous criminal organizations.

This is why they fight reporting requirements. No one knows you're just making poor people poorer unless you're required to report all of your forfeitures. Up in Minnesota -- like far too many other places around the country -- law enforcement officers roll Sheriff of Nottingham style. Unfortunately, there's no Robin Hood lurking in the forests patrolled by opportunistic officers.

Here's state auditor Julie Blaha offering her opinion about forfeitures in Minnesota after digging into the data the agencies provided:

“The data shows that when it comes to the impact of forfeitures, the big story is in the small numbers,” Blaha said in a statement. “Those kinds of amounts have a small impact on government systems, but they have a big impact at the individual level.”

[...]

“If you are managing a public safety budget, small forfeitures are a minor and unpredictable part of your revenue stream,” Blaha continued. “But if you are a low income person experiencing a forfeiture, those amounts can have a big effect on your life. Having a few hundred dollars seized can mean the difference between making rent or homelessness. Losing that old car can lead to missing work and losing your job.”

The program punishes the poor. Very few law enforcement agencies which rely on forfeiture for their discretionary funds want to tangle with an actually organized criminal organization. Those guys can afford lawyers. Most citizens can't. That's why most seizures are so small they're not worth fighting in court. At the end of the jurisprudence day, citizens may win back their cash or cars, but they'll lose the war, having paid more in court and legal fees than what their property is worth.

Everything adds up to real money if you have enough of it. Here's the ugly truth, straight from the auditor's report [PDF].

523 (12 percent) forfeitures were less than $100.
1,414 (32 percent) forfeitures ranged from $100 to $499.
858 (20 percent) forfeitures ranged from $500 to $999.
1,252 (29 percent) forfeitures ranged from $1,000 to $4,999.
304 (7 percent) forfeitures were equal to or greater than $5,000
.

Only seven percent targeted amounts that might actually do damage to criminal organizations. 64% of forfeitures targeted less than $1,000.

Here's the list of crimes associated with these seizures, which shows officers are willing to take easy wins and easy cash, rather than actually tangle with criminal enterprises far more harmful and dangerous.

In 2019, DUI-related and controlled substance accounted for 94 percent of the forfeitures. DUI-related forfeitures accounted for 3,654, or 47 percent, of reported forfeitures, while forfeitures involving a controlled substance accounted for 3,611, or 47 percent, of reported forfeitures. The remaining forfeitures involved fleeing (251), prostitution (69), “other” crimes (36), weapons (31), robbery/theft (23), assault (20), and burglary (13). Figure 5 on the following page shows completed forfeitures by type of crime.

Oh thank god. They're dismantling Big Drunk. We won't have to fear the scourge of alcohol/drug consumers for much longer. #Heroes. And if that wasn't enough, the dangerous Sinola Fleeing Cartel is being destroyed bit-by-bit. Abandoned property is so much easier to seize and forfeit than stuff people are still standing next to and stating their claim for.

This is how asset forfeiture works: easy wins predicated on criminal activity that rarely affects anyone besides the person stopped and their property. It all adds up though. For the state of Minnesota, the total was $7.5 million. And what did it accomplish? Did it cripple the non-organized crime of driving under the influence? Did it make it less likely for people to carry their personal stashes of illicit substances? No one dismantled a drug cartel. No one ensured Minnesotans would be subjected to fewer violent crimes. All that happened was cops took stuff that was easy to take and spent the money once it rolled in.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: asset forfeiture, julie blaha, legalized theft, minnsesota


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonomous coward, 15 Sep 2020 @ 9:04am

    Not ALL police are bad

    It is obvious that asset forfeiture is something that can be abused by law enforcement. There are many articles on Techdirt that cover the many times this has been abused. This does not mean that ALL police are bad and this does not meant that police need to be DEFUNDED.

    Police uphold the law as it is written and can only uphold the law where and when it can do so. Without police there cannot be accountability for criminal conduct, especially from corrupt politicians. Politicians who slant how laws to be a help to society(sucha as asset forfeiture), when it is not give the power to police.

    Granted, asset forfeiture could be helpful when actually applied to real criminals and thier gangs. But we don't read about the impacts of how it helped law enforcement here on techdirt or in most news artciles.

    Law enforcement should have judicial review of all of their arrests and acts of seizure before declaring it property. And I think the assets siezed should be donated or sold to help their cities with perhaps a 1% stake that goes to the police department. I do not think that police should be allowed to keep property such as cars or homes, etc. I think if that if there has been judicial review of the assets siezed and not returned after several interviews of the owner(s). I think this should be still allowed as a police practice, just not as it is practices as of now due to the obvious abuses in the past and present highlighted in techdirt.

    We need law enforcement in our communities but we need good politicians and law makers that aren't corrupt creating unncecessary trouble for the public, such as asset forfeitures (as it is used and abused in law enforcement today) and criminalization of marijuana etc.

    Not all cops are bad, but we do know that police that make bad decisions and do bad things give police as a whole a bad reputation.

    Police departments already know there are problems and many already review their practices and procedures used and have a merit system within their departments personel.

    The less police we have the more crime happens and we need the security to call 911 and get help from intruders, gangs, domestic related issues etc. So even though there are abuses that happen, it's not like someone in law enforcement does not try to figure out how to minimize it from happening. Law enforcmeent do read and they do happen to read techdirt from time to time. This does not mean they are bad for reading and understanding problems and working on fixing them, all the while being labeled a pig because they are a cop.

    Again, law enforcement do not make the laws they are to enforce them. Also, keep in mind that law enforcment will use every extent of the law they can, for good and for bad. This is why it is good for police to have body cameras and civilans have the right to complaints on officers conduct etc.

    You cannot control what people do when they have already done something bad. You can only try to prevent it. Judicial review on asset forfeitures makes sense to me. But it may not be the solution, but the law should have the ability to size assets of real criminals and yes I understand that it is a law abused on ordinary Americans. Nothing is perfect, but we cannot have a community of gangs that grow stronger than the police because they have the resources police take away.

    All i'm saying is Techdirt is right about how much of a problem assset forfeiture is. For the most part, it is more of a problem than the good it is supposed to serve. But I do not believe it is an action that should be unable to be taken without a warrant by judicial review before and after the fact. Ownership of wrong doing needs to be accounted for and property returned if wronfully taken.

    Warrants are a good way to have that extra level of accountability but it is obvious this law allows that to be skirted. It's sort of a tool that can be useful but needs to be refined to where the property is charged with a crime instead of the individual.


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.