Thursday 17 October 2013

Asset Forfeiture and Harm Maximisation

Another day, another bit of evidence that kicking back to the police assets seized under asset forfeiture legislation completely screws things up. Here's the Sun-Sentinel on a wonderful moneymaking scheme that the cops in Sunrise, Florida have developed. Here's how it works.

Sunrise cops encourage drug dealers to come to Sunrise to buy drugs from them. They meet the drug dealers in shopping malls and fast food restaurants. They make the purchase agreement. They later meet at some other public location, make the exchange, then the swarm of armed officers comes down to seize the cash, cars, or anything else the buyer has that could plausibly be considered a proceed of crime. The seizures are the point: arrests and convictions are pretty secondary. The Sun-Sentinel reports that, in 100 cases they examined, $3 million in cash plus cars and other items were seized, but there were only two convictions for cocaine trafficking.
The first meet-and-greet sessions don’t happen on dark street corners or in seedy motels, court records show. They take place inside popular family restaurants: McDonald’s, Steak ‘n Shake, Chili’s.
Once a buyer is on the hook, a meeting is scheduled to conclude the transaction. Police come with at least one real kilo of cocaine and additional fake kilos, all shaped like bricks.
Undercover officers with assault rifles wait in unmarked cars, watching for the signal for the takedown. While the busts are tightly controlled, some can get messy. Some buyers bring guns along with their cash.
A few have run away; police have released dogs and fired Tasers. One man nabbed at TGI Fridays threw a gym bag containing the cocaine on the ground, and his partner fell and dropped a gun he had in his waistband.
In a 2010 deposition, one defense attorney asked a Sunrise cop: “Would you take your wife shopping in that plaza if you knew a deal was going down that afternoon?”
The reply: “Probably not.”
TGI Fridays managers at the restaurant in Sunrise, 13350 W. Sunrise Blvd., and corporate relations representatives declined to comment about the numerous stings staged on their property.

  • Never ever ever go to Sunrise, Florida, for a family vacation. Or for any other reason.
  • Asset forfeiture's incentives are sufficient to induce Sunrise's police officers to put the public at risk by deliberately bringing armed drug dealers into family restaurants. 
  • New Zealand has made a very serious mistake in moving to civil asset forfeiture with proceeds kicked back to the drug enforcement budget. At least we have, as yet, no evidence that local departments can profit by increased seizures.


  1. I can't speak to meth, but a low level cannabis dealer can make $100 a day with very little effort, and more effort will bring more money. Meth would likely be more profitable per unit, but I have no idea what kind of volume you would move.

  2. Asset forfeiture is inconsistent with the philosophical base of the NZ National Party... yet they are proponents of same and others such as ACT cow tow to the same tough on crime vernacular. A clear case of we have principles and if you don't like them, we have plenty of others. Curiously it seems to be drug policy that is the ring that blinds them.

  3. I'm pretty sure that Jaime Whyte opposes civil asset forfeiture.