A new Institute for Justice study (PDF) 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: