State law allows departments to net various items after citizens break law
by Joni Astrup
State law that allows law enforcement to seize property associated with certain criminal activity has netted a few unusual items locally.
The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Department once seized a semi-tractor and trailer from a drug deal, according to Capt. Scott Fildes.
“That was out of the ordinary,” he said.
The Elk River Police Department obtained both a Hummer H3 (pictured) and a Chevrolet Impala through forfeiture, according to Capt. Bob Kluntz. Both went on to new life as unmarked police vehicles.
A new report from the Minnesota State Auditor’s Office, “Criminal Forfeitures in Minnesota,” looks at forfeitures statewide that were completed in 2012.
That year, 310 Minnesota law enforcement agencies reported 6,851 incidents of property seized. Total value of net proceeds from these forfeitures was $6.7 million.
Locally, in 2012 the Elk River Police Department reported 18 incidents of property seized, all related to DUIs or drug-related crimes. Net proceeds from these forfeitures totaled $14,927.
Fourteen of the items seized were vehicles, including a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado 2500. That vehicle ended up being returned to the owner under an agreement that netted $10,000, according to the report.
Kluntz said sometimes a forfeited vehicle is bought back by the owner. The city or county attorney usually negotiates a price between the department and the person buying back the car and the funds are then placed into a forfeiture account maintained by the city. In many cases, the vehicles have to have an ignition interlock device installed, Kluntz said.
Other vehicles seized by the Police Department and listed in the report were sold, returned to the lien holder or returned to the owner. One, a 1998 Chrysler Sebring, ended up at the salvage yard.
Kluntz said law enforcement can seize a number of different items. Usually, the Elk River Police Department seizes things like vehicles, cash, firearms and jewelry.
“If we are awarded the items by the court, we usually do one of two things: Keep them for use by the department or sell the item and place the funds into the forfeiture account to be used to buy department equipment,” he said.
The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office reported 47 instances of property seized subject to forfeiture completed in 2012. Most were related to DUIs and drug crimes; one involved a firearms violation that resulted in the seizure of a Ruger .45 caliber weapon. In total there were eight firearms seized that year as well as 24 vehicles, one motorcycle and some cash, according to the report.
Among the bigger ticket items were a 2007 GMC Canyon and a 2002 Harley-Davidson, both linked to DUIs. Both were sold. The GMC Canyon netted $8,260 and the motorcycle, $6,411, the report stated.
The Sheriff’s Office reported that net proceeds from forfeitures in 2012 totaled $49,673.
Fildes said the Sheriff’s Office typically seizes cash, guns and cars and uses the proceeds from the forfeitures to purchase equipment for the department.
Among the statewide findings in the “Criminal Forfeitures in Minnesota” report:
•Vehicles accounted for 54 percent of property seized, followed by cash (33 percent), firearms (11 percent) and other property (2 percent). Vehicles also included ATVs, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles and even a couple of motor homes.
•Drug crimes and drunken driving accounted for 89 percent of all forfeitures. The remaining incidents involved game and fish violations, fleeing, weapons, burglary, robbery and theft, assault and “other” crimes.
•Some of the more pricey items that were seized in Minnesota, along with their estimated values, were a 2008 Baja 26-foot boat ($85,000), a 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Sport ($70,000), a 2011 Cadillac Escalade ($60,000) and a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette ($40,000). Some of these items were returned to their owners via agreement; others were returned to lien holders.
Forfeitures: What area agencies seized
Property seized subject to forfeiture, with final disposition in 2012
Big Lake Police Dept.
Items seized: Eight firearms, one vehicle.
Crimes: Four controlled substance, two DUI-related, one burglary, one robbery, one assault.
Net proceeds: $885.
Elk River Police Dept.
Items seized: 14 vehicles, cash.
Crimes: 14 DUI-related, four controlled substance.
Net proceeds: $14,927.
Ramsey Police Dept.
Items seized: Seven vehicles, jewelry.
Crimes: Five controlled substance, three DUI-related.
Net proceeds: $754.
Rogers Police Dept.
Items seized: None reported in 2012.
Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office
Items seized: 24 vehicles, eight firearms, one motorcycle and cash.
Crimes: 28 controlled substance, 18 DUI-related, one firearm violation.
Net proceeds: $49,673.
Wright County Sheriff’s Office
Items seized: 55 vehicles, one motorcycle, cash, one listed as “other” and one forfeiture involving land that netted $46,557.
Crimes: 39 controlled substance, 45 DUI-related, and one fleeing a police officer.
Net proceeds: $109,677.
Source: “Criminal Forfeitures in Minnesota” by the Minnesota State Auditor