For the First Time, Law Enforcement Takes more Property from Americans than Burglars Do

Thursday, December 03, 2015
Police confiscate property (photo: Adam Berry, Getty Images)

Crime isn’t paying like it used to, at least for burglars. They’d be better served working for the federal government, which took more assets last year than the guys who got away with the family silver.


The blog Armstrong Economics pointed out last month that in 2014, U.S. Attorneys seized more than $4.5 billion of assets. The Institute for Justice cited an even larger figure of more than $5 billion in assets forfeited to the departments of Justice and Treasury.


The loss to burglaries, on the other hand, was about $3.5 billion last year. “The police are now taking more assets than the criminals,” Martin Armstrong wrote, adding this was the first time it has happened.


Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post argued Armstrong wasn’t completely correct in his statement. “The FBI also tracks property losses from larceny and theft, in addition to plain ol’ burglary,” Ingraham wrote. “If you add up all the property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and other means, you arrive at roughly $12.3 billion, according to the FBI. That’s more than double the federal asset forfeiture haul.”


Ingraham also said the asset forfeiture figures only involve property seized by the feds, and “don’t reflect how much property is seized by state and local police each year. Reliable data for all 50 states is unavailable, but the Institute of Justice found that the total asset forfeiture haul for 14 states topped $250 million in 2013. The grand 50-state total would probably be much higher.”


A large part of the forfeiture money was the $1.7 billion taken from Bernie Madoff’s assets to pay back his victims. But the net assets in 2014 of the forfeiture fund, which have come in over several years, after paying off victims exceeded $4.5 billion, still more than burglars got.


A possible reason the totals have been so high is the cuts to funding in the wake of the economic crisis begun at the end of the George W. Bush administration. “The years 2008 to 2014 were some lean economic years,” said Dick Carpenter, co-author of the Institute for Justice report. “Forfeiture is an attractive way to keep revenue streams flowing when budgets are tight.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Law Enforcement Took More Stuff from People than Burglars Did Last Year (by Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post)

Police Civil Asset Forfeitures Exceed All Burglaries in 2014 (by Martin Armstrong, Armstrong Economics)

Federal Asset Seizure Total in Two Funds Tripled In 6 Years to $4.5 Billion (The Crime Report)

Police Departments Like to Seize Fancy Cars and Cash…Computers and Jewelry Not So Much (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Across U.S., Police Asset Seizures Fuel “Slush Fund” for Buying Weapons, Luxury Cars, Travel…and Even a Clown (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Seizing Citizens’ Property as a Revenue Source for Law Enforcement (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


Bruce Balderston 8 years ago
Wake Up 8 years ago
This is the result of a "Police State". No laws to protect the Public. Laws only protect the police FROM the Public. So when you call the police to get involved, expect to lose your property; your family dog could get killed; or you could get's all been documented for years.

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