Police Seizures Balloon

Economimist Martin Armstrong recently claimed that the monetary value taken in by police seizures exceeded the monetary value of damages due to burglary. In 2014, around $4.5 billion dollars were seized by the police while only $3.9 billion dollars were lost by burglaries. As Martin writes, “this means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.” Now, this is a somewhat arbitrary comparison; the fact that one value exceeds the other doesn’t hold any inherent meaning in particular. A large part of police seizures come from drug trafficking networks and other criminal syndicates not directly connected to burglary. But it does highlight the ballooning scale of police seizures. According to Martin, police seizures have grown by around 20% annually since 1989. In 2010, the spiked up by 50%. The really interesting part of all this is that, to my knowledge, these assets serve as a funding source for police organizations. So, it would seem that police organizations have an ulterior motive to make these seizures. Martin echoes concerns that civil forfeiture laws have turned police into “self-funding gangs.” On the other hand, it could be argued that these upticks are simply a result some combination of increased police efficacy, increased asset-holding on the part of criminals, or other factors. Especially in light of recent concerns about police behavior and management, the rapid expansion of civil forfeiture merits concern and further investigation.

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