FORFEITURES ON RISE FOR POLICE, DRUG TASK FORCE
At a time when the state's budget deficit has dominated the news, some area law enforcement agencies are seeing a welcome boost in funds from forfeited guns, cars and cash, according to a state auditor's report.
The report, released on Monday, says the Southeast Minnesota Drug Task Force saw net proceeds from forfeited property more than double between 2006 to 2007, climbing to more than $184,000.
The task force, a collaboration of local law enforcement that covers eight counties in southeast Minnesota, ranked third in the state for the most forfeiture incidents with 293. First place went to the Minneapolis Police Department with 1,186, followed by the Minnesota State Patrol with 460. The Rochester Police Department also enjoyed a forfeiture boom with more than $46,000 in net proceeds from seized property and cash.
Dodge County Sheriff Gary Thompson said he is not surprised by the local drug task force's success. His agency is part of the task force.
"We're a fairly large task force geographically in comparison to some others. Our investigators are very active," Thompson said. "We've consistently been among the top producing task forces in the state."
The success of local agencies follows a statewide trend. Between 2006 and 2007, the net proceeds from criminal forfeitures grew by more than 25 percent, reaching $4.3 million.
"The sharp increase in net proceeds is due to the substantial increase in the number and value of cash forfeitures," State Auditor Rebecca Otto said. Unlike cars or guns, cash seizures generally result in less administrative costs.
Local law enforcement agencies get to keep 70 percent of the net forfeiture proceeds. Another 20 percent goes to the prosecuting agency and 10 percent goes into the state's general fund. These figures do not include drunken driving-related forfeitures.
Rochester police left the task force in 2006. As a result, the state's forfeiture numbers show a huge jump between 2006 to 2007 for the police department. But much of that jump can be attributed to Rochester beginning to keep track of its own narcotics seizures, Deputy Police Chief Steven Johnston said. The department had nearly $18,000 in net forfeiture proceeds in 2006.
So far this year, the department has collected more than $32,000 in revenue from narcotics-related seizures, Johnston said.
Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)