A new Institute for Justice study (PDF), made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation, finds the nation’s largest forfeiture program does not help police fight crime. Instead, the study indicates police use forfeiture to boost revenue—in other words, to police for profit. The IJ study, “Fighting Crime or Raising Revenue? Testing Opposing Views of Forfeiture,” combines local crime, drug use and economic data from a variety of federal sources with more than a decade’s worth of data from the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. Equitable sharing lets state and local law enforcement cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other DOJ agencies on forfeiture cases and receive up to 80% of the proceeds.
The study—the most extensive and sophisticated of its kind—calls into question whether distributing billions of dollars in forfeiture proceeds improves police effectiveness. The new evidence undercuts claims by prominent forfeiture supporters, such as former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who called forfeiture an “important tool that can be used to combat crime, particularly drug abuse,” and Attorney General William Barr, who, while acknowledging “problems and potential abuses,” called forfeiture “a valuable tool in law enforcement.”
Specifically, the study finds:
More forfeiture proceeds do not translate into more crimes solved, despite claims forfeiture gives law enforcement more resources to fight crime.
More forfeiture proceeds also do not mean less drug use, even though forfeiture supposedly rids the streets of drugs by crippling drug dealers and cartels financially.
When local economies suffer, forfeiture activity increases, suggesting police make greater use of forfeiture when local budgets are tight. A 1 percentage point increase in local unemployment—a standard proxy for fiscal stress—is associated with a statistically significant 9 percentage point increase in seizures of property for forfeiture.
“These results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that forfeiture’s value in crime fighting is exaggerated and that police do use forfeiture to raise revenue,” said Dr. Brian Kelly, associate professor of economics at Seattle University and the study’s author. “Given this evidence and the serious civil liberties concerns raised by forfeiture, forfeiture proponents should bear the burden of proof when opposing reforms that would keep police focused on fighting crime, not raising revenue.”
The scale of federal forfeiture is vast. Between 2001 and 2017, the federal government’s two main forfeiture funds took in close to $40 billion, and the funds’ net assets have surpassed $4 billion in every year since 2013. From 2000 to 2016, the DOJ’s equitable sharing program made more than 660,000 distributions totaling over $6.8 billion to state and local law enforcement. Distributions fell following modest reforms introduced by former Attorney General Eric Holder in 2015. However, former Attorney General Sessions reversed the Holder reforms in 2017. Detailed data following this reversal are not yet available.
“This study shows policymakers can undertake serious and much-needed forfeiture reforms without jeopardizing police effectiveness,” said Lee McGrath, IJ’s senior legislative counsel. “Congress should abolish equitable sharing, and in the meantime, states should opt out of the program. And lawmakers should eliminate the financial incentives in both state and federal forfeiture laws that encourage the pursuit of revenue over the pursuit of justice.”
Since the Institute for Justice began its End Forfeiture initiative in 2010, 32 states and the District of Columbia have enacted forfeiture reforms. Seven states and the district have largely opted out of equitable sharing, limiting law enforcement’s ability to receive funding through the program and making it harder for law enforcement to circumvent state civil forfeiture laws. And in 2015, New Mexico abolished civil forfeiture, replacing it with criminal forfeiture and requiring that all forfeiture proceeds be deposited in the state’s general fund. In February, IJ secured a landmark victory in Timbs v. Indiana, where the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state civil forfeiture cases are bound by the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “excessive fines.” – Made available through ij.org
The Moral Case has been reviewed favorably by dozens of publications (including the WSJ), it has a 4.7 rating across hundreds of reviews on Amazon (very unusual for a book this controversial), it was an NYT and WSJ bestseller, and one of the most respected political commentators of the last 25 years named me “most original thinker of the year” because of my reframing of the climate issue.
Almost no opponents challenge *The Moral Case* because they don’t want to *confront a good argument*. Their interest is not the discovery of the policies that will advance human flourishing, it is the status/approval they get by being leaders of a mainstream crusade.
Since the publication of The Moral Case, whenever opponents have tried to refute me in live situations, whether through debates or hostile interviews, it has gone badly for them.
I have no idea what happened in this latest case (because he didn’t have the character to tell me) but it wouldn’t surprise me if some YouTube browsing made him conclude that he would be better off attending to “urgent” business far away from the debate hall.
There is still an empty slot to debate me at Collision Conf next Tuesday–if we can fill it with a big name. (Otherwise I will do a full event on the moral case). If Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Nye The Science Guy, or (the latest “scientific” fossil fuel attacker) Neil deGrasse Tyson is willing to step up, I will happily pay for their First-Class fare. Leo, since I know you prefer to fly private jet when it’s time to go attack fossil fuels, I will pay $2000 of your (fossil) fuel.
Russia is demanding that Bulgaria try harder to prevent vandalism of Soviet monuments, after yet another monument to Soviet troops in Sofia was spray-painted, ITAR-Tass reported. The Russian Embassy in Bulgaria has issued a note demanding that its former Soviet-era ally clean up the monument in Sofia’s Lozenets district, identify and punish those responsible, and take “exhaustive measures” to prevent similar attacks in the future, the news agency reported Monday. The monument was spray-painted on the eve of the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s celebration of its 123rd anniversary, the Sofia-based Novinite news agency reported.
In a major vindication for Edward Snowden — and a blow for the national security policy pursued by Republicans and Democrats alike — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Thursday that the National Security Agency’s metadata collection program is unlawful. This is the most serious blow to date for the legacy of the USA Patriot Act and the surveillance overreach that followed 9/11.
The central question depended on the meaning of the word “relevant”: Was the government’s collection relevant to an investigation when it collects all the metadata for any phone call made to or from anywhere in the U.S.?
The court said no. That was the right decision — not so much because it protects privacy, as because it broke the bad precedent of secret law created by the NSA and endorsed by the secret national security court known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica-based analyst of consumer behavior and marketing trends, figures consumers haven’t seen the last of major retailers shuttering. Just last week, Sport Chalet announced the closure of all 47 of its stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. That chain is based in La Cañada Flintridge.
“With the minimum wage going up to $15 an hour and more people turning to online shopping, more stores are going to close,” Lempert said. “It’s fine to say that everyone should have a living wage. But the money has to come from somewhere.”
Lempert said a growing number of retail outlets have fallen victim to “showrooming,” where customers will walk into a store, try on the shirt or jacket they like and then order it online at a significant discount.
“These stores have to look at not at how they will compete with other brick-and-mortar stores, but how they will compete with Amazon,” he said. “It’s become a holistic environment where people can buy things on their mobile phones and then have the products delivered by the time they get home.”
I have watched the suicide of a nation; and I know now how it happens. Venezuela is slowly, and very publically, dying; an act that has spanned more than fifteen years. To watch a country kill itself is not something that happens often. In ignorance, one presumes it would be fast and brutal and striking – like the Rwandan genocide or Vesuvius covering Pompeii. You expect to see bodies of mothers clutching protectively their young; carbonized by the force or preserved on the glossy side of pictures. But those aren’t the occasions that promote national suicide. After those events countries recover – people recover. They rebuild, they reconcile. They forgive.
No, national suicide is a much longer process – not product of any one moment. But instead one bad idea, upon another, upon another and another and another and another and the wheels that move the country began to grind slower and slower; rust covering their once shiny facades. Revolution – cold and angry. Hate, as a political strategy. Law, used to divide and conquer. Regulation used to punish. Elections used to cement dictatorship. Corruption bleeding out the lifeblood in drips, filling the buckets of a successive line of bureaucrats before they are destroyed, only to be replaced time and again. This is what is remarkable for me about Venezuela.
Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.