American Elephants


Getting the Incentives Right Makes All The Difference by The Elephant's Child

police_by_steve_lyon_500x280Are you familiar with the term “Civil Asset Forfeiture”? Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate in sums seized averaged at a positive 19.4% annually.  In the year 2010 alone that number increased by 53.8%from the previous year and was six times greater than the total seized in 1989. In 2014 the amount seized for the year was roughly $4.5 billion.

According to the FBI the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses represented an estimated $3.9 billion. In other words, the police are now taking more assets than the crooks. Call it policing for profit. What’s going on? How does it work?

We give local police and prosecutors the authority to seize cash, cars, homes and other property from private citizens — without a court convicting those citizens of any crime. Without even charging them of a crime.  Then the authorities get to sell the goods and keep the profits for themselves. The incentives built into the system have led some localities to turn forfeiture into a shakedown operation.

On the one hand, we depend on the police to keep our neighborhoods safe; on the other we have Black Lives Matter activists charging police with racism and unnecessary attacks on innocents because of their race. Again, incentives at work. Police recruitment is down across the country. Potential recruits see no point in signing on for an occupation where they will be accused of racism, physically attacked, when they are risking their lives to protect the people. Even when cleared of all charges by careful investigation, they are assumed to be murderers. Who needs that?

Valerie Jarrett has just announced that President Obama will be working to reform the criminal justice system, releasing about 6,000 inmates convicted of drug related offenses, and she said, reforms that reduce prison populations will make America safer.

The idea seems to be that the black community suffers from an absence of fathers, and there are too many fathers in prison for non-violent offenses like selling drugs, so if we get the fathers out of prison, it will help the black community. Or something like that. “Banning the box” on federal employment applications will make a criminal background less apt to result in being rejected, and more men will be employed.

“If you keep people from going to prison in the first place, and they don’t get caught up in that system and they are getting employed and they have ways of taking care of their family, that brings crime down, and so I think we have all of the stakeholders firmly engaged in this process as a way of keeping our neighborhoods safer and allowing people to lead productive lives.”

“Jarrett predicted “really big things” would happen during Obama’s final year in office.” Somehow that statement does not fill me with confidence or anticipation.

 


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Actually, asset forfeiture could be used to reform immigration. Bank accounts that were opened with Consular Matricula ID cards could be frozen and seized by the Federal government as they are the profits of illegal activities in the US.

Comment by jptheinsider

Yes, but we’re trying to get them to forego asset forfeiture permanently. It’s just wrong. We can’t be expanding it, although your heart is in the right place.

Comment by The Elephant's Child




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: