What happens to all the money seized in drug busts? - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

What happens to all the money seized in drug busts?

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Hundreds of drug raids go down across Connecticut each year, but Connecticut State Police, local police and federal authorities said they don't only seize drugs, but oftentimes cash as well during their busts.

State prosecutors tell Eyewitness News that in any given year, 1,200 to 1,400 raids occur, with an average seizure of $500 cash. But they can also be larger - much larger. A recent raid netted $85,000 in cash, according to police.

The drugs that are seized are usually destroyed, but the cash and property seized can ultimately end up being used by the police departments that seized it.

In 1989, the state of Connecticut enacted the Drug Asset Forfeiture Law, which means 70 percent of every successful forfeiture goes back to state and local police, 20 percent goes to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for to fund drug treatment programs, and the remaining 10 percent helps underwrite the cost of prosecuting such cases.

The New Britain Police Department said they can thank suspected drug dealers for some of their new expensive equipment. In just the past two years, they've received more than $500,000 in drug money, allowing them to purchase a special vehicle to process crime scenes, another vehicle with specialized communications equipment that serves as a mobile command center and exercise equipment for the police gym. They also now have a new $100,000, simulated shooting system used to train officers for active shooter situations.

"Already other officers from other departments have come down, seen its capabilities," said New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell. He said his hope is not just to train New Britain officers, but to use what he calls this "very valuable piece of equipment" to train officers in the region as well.

"Without the asset forfeiture money, these purchases would not have been made in these economic times," he said.

Hartford police said they've purchased a mobile traffic unit with seized drug money. Raids also resulted in the seizures of a Hummer vehicle, a jet ski and a few "Gators" - utility vehicles - that are used to provide park, parade and river patrols.

They're also using seized drug money for officer training, the city's police explorers program along with crime and drug prevention initiatives.

Such raids are "an essential tool to obtain additional revenue and it's above and beyond what the city provides us," said Sgt. Glendaly Garcia, of the Hartford Police Department.

Other area police departments have been able to purchase stun guns, gas masks, high tech computer equipment and vehicles used in undercover operations.

Police departments don't get the money the moment it is seized. They have to successfully work through a forfeiture process that begins in the Connecticut Department of Criminal Justice. In most cases, eventually a judge will decide whether to return the property to the owner or to have it forfeited to authorities.

"A lot of cases get disposed of within 90 to 120 days of us filing a petition," said Assistant State's Attorney Christopher Malany, who serves with the Asset Forfeiture Bureau in the Chief State's Attorney's Office. "In some cases there may be linkage with a criminal case, and they'll say ‘I don't want to take up the forfeiture case until criminal charges are resolved', and then it'll last plus the life of the criminal case."

Malany said total seizures since the asset forfeiture law went into effect 24 years ago total over $38 million, money that Wardwell said is helpful to his department.

When multiple departments work together in a Statewide Narcotics Task Force raid, each gets a percentage as part of a sharing agreement. Usually the lead agency will get the lion's share of those funds. The same is true with federal cases in which the FBI is involved.

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