Wednesday 1 December 2010

It begins...

And it turns out that the NZ Police are getting to keep the money they seize under the recently implemented civil asset forfeiture regime. Says Minister of Police Judith Collins in Question Period:
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Police: What reports has she received on the Government’s efforts to confiscate the proceeds of crime?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police) : I am very pleased to report that since the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act came into force last December, the police asset recovery unit has investigated 201 cases. That has resulted in an estimated $34.6 million worth of assets being made subject to restraining orders under the Act. Those assets are now in the hands of the official assignee, awaiting further legal orders, with the objective of confiscation. The assets involved in those cases include $6 million in cash and bank accounts; 36 residential and commercial properties worth an estimated $15.8 million; eight farms, orchards, and lifestyle blocks worth an estimated $10.5 million; 44 cars, vans, and four-wheel drives worth an estimated $852,000; and 24 motorcycles worth an estimated $423,000.

Sandra Goudie: How are the funds gained from confiscated assets likely to be used?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The Government is planning to put the money to good use. Police are working with other agencies on plans to expand alcohol and drug treatment and extra law enforcement initiatives to fight organised crime groups.
HT: NoRightTurn

Previously, they'd said that money went to a mix of victim support and fighting organised crime. In April, MED was anticipating allocating seized funds to drug enforcement efforts.

I'd hoped when National passed the New Zealand regime that seized monies would go into the consolidated fund and wouldn't be earmarked for law enforcement. The incentive properties of police getting to finance their operations through asset seizures are not good. First, police will have, at the margin, incentive to redirect their time towards profit-making activities and away from things like murder investigations. Second, the bar for seizures may be set rather lower than we might like. As Radley Balko noted in the States:
The Chicago Tribune reported that in just the three years between 2006 and 2008, Tenaha police stopped 140 drivers and asked them to sign waivers agreeing to hand over their cash, cars, jewelry, and other property to avoid arrest and prosecution on drug charges. If the drivers agreed, police took their property and waved them down the highway. If they refused, even innocent motorists faced months of legal hassles and thousands of dollars in attorney fees, usually amounting to far more than the value of the amount seized. One local attorney found court records of 200 cases in which Tenaha police had seized assets from drivers; only 50 were ever criminally charged.

National Public Radio reported in 2008 that in Kingsville, Texas, a town of 25,000, “Police officers drive high-performance Dodge Chargers and use $40,000 digital ticket writers. They’ll soon carry military-style assault rifles, and the SWAT team recently acquired sniper rifles.” All this equipment was funded with proceeds from highway forfeitures.
I hope somebody's keeping an eye on things here....

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