The Free Lance-Star, VA
The war on drugs netted Virginia law enforcement agencies nearly $6 million in 2005, and about $40 million since 1990.
That's according to data from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, which runs the state's asset forfeiture program and receives 10 percent of all proceeds from drug seizures.
Law enforcement agencies in the Fredericksburg area received about $442,000 last year from drug asset forfeitures, and more than $1 million since the state's program started in 1990. Before that, seized assets went to the Literary Fund.
Local agencies have used the money to buy a wide variety of items--including drug dogs, polygraph machines, vehicles, surveillance equipment and more.
"I don't have to go to the taxpayer to ask them to pay for it," said Spotsylvania County Sheriff Howard Smith, whose office received nearly $60,000 from seized drug assets last year.
In addition to saving taxpayer money, Smith said the forfeiture program gives police more resources to fight the drug problem. And it lets them hit drug dealers where it hurts--in the wallet.
The desire to shut down illegal activity by seizing assets led Smith and Spotsylvania Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely to approve a controversial prostitution investigation at the Moon Spa massage parlor.
Spotsylvania detectives received sexual services at the now-closed business across from BJ's Wholesale Club on State Route 3. Neely said that was necessary to get the money into the hands of the business owners and shut them down, but Smith has now suspended the tactic.
Virginia's asset forfeiture laws allow the seizure of assets gained through illegal activity, including prostitution and gambling. Local agencies don't have to report non-drug-related asset forfeitures to the DCJS.
Drug War Facts: Asset Forfeiture