Asset forfeiture laws have been delivering a windfall to police departments across the country for years, but the increasing use of these rules passed an Incredible milestone in 2014.
In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. ...
Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.
From the Armstrong Economics blog:
Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.
Armstrong’s blog also points out that police have frequently been confiscating property in violation of the law, and that property is rarely returned. But hey, all those tanks and drones aren't free. Oh, wait … unfortunately, they are.
(Note: linking this data shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of, or belief in, Armstrong’s economic theories. It’s just that he deserves credit for spotting and highlighting these numbers. )