Ariz. (June 5, 2007) – When Peoria police arrest criminals, they regularly seize
large amounts of cash and other property – and these valuables are often put to
use subsequently to fight crime.
The process, known as asset forfeiture, has helped
the City of Peoria purchase equipment to prevent crime and hire staff to help
prosecute criminals. On Tuesday, June 5, the Peoria City Council is expected to
authorize the use of asset forfeiture dollars to purchase 110 digital voice
recorders for police to use during investigations.
“It seems like a small thing,” says City Attorney
Steve Kemp, “but these recorders will improve our ability to prosecute cases
because the quality of the recordings is so much better.” Distributing copies of
the recordings will also be much easier thanks to the digital format.
This $38,000 purchase is one example of how funds seized from criminal activity
are turned around to improve law enforcement and support the criminal justice
Since 2005, over $200,000 in asset forfeiture
dollars have helped the Peoria Police Department make purchases like a police
dog (and training for the handling officer), stop sticks to disable fleeing
vehicles, and a customized van to carry the Special Assignment Unit (commonly
called a “SWAT” team) and their gear.
The funds are put to use by city prosecutors as well, where dollars have the
greatest impact by paying for contract staff (such as legal assistants) to help
manage increasing caseloads.
Through asset forfeiture, vehicles can be turned
over to police and put to work as undercover units, weapons seized can become
city property so that they can be destroyed, and property may be sold at auction
to generate cash.
Cities can gain only those assets believed to be
part of drug crimes, and assets gained through forfeiture can be used only to
support criminal justice purposes. When police seize cash or property the city
attorney’s office requests release of the assets through a civil process in
state superior court, where probable cause to believe the assets were involved
in criminal activity must be demonstrated.
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