Drug-bust money benefits Daly City police 

A new thermal imaging device will help the Daly City Police Department find missing persons, hiding suspects or recently fired and abandoned guns.

Permission to purchase the device was granted last week with money forfeited during drug busts.

This is the first thermal imaging device for Daly City patrol units, police Capt. Eric Wollman said.

The gadget costs roughly $5,000, Wollman said, but it comes from the Police Department’s asset forfeiture fund, which gives law enforcement agencies money confiscated during drug busts.

Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato said the purpose of the fund is to go after all aspects of drug trafficking.

“It’s such a lucrative criminal enterprise,” he said. “Depriving them of all ill gains is a high priority for us.”

According to California law, the state and/or local law enforcement agencies that participate in a seizure receive 65 percent of asset forfeiture proceeds. 

Another 24 percent goes to the state’s general fund, and 10 percent is given to the prosecutorial agency that processes the forfeiture action. The final 1 percent goes to a nonprofit that provides training for prosecutors and law enforcement in the ethics and proper use of the state’s asset seizure and forfeiture laws.

Statewide, a total of 4,435 forfeiture proceedings were initiated in 2008 with a collective estimated value of $32.7 million, according to the California Department of Justice’s annual report for that year. San Mateo County initiated 63 forfeiture cases that year, with an estimated value of the assets seized at $378,788.

This month, Daly City police received $27,000 in new forfeiture funds, according to the Police Department.

It can take years, however, for departments to receive the funds, Serrato said.

Once a law enforcement agency does receive asset forfeiture money, it can be used two ways: 15 percent of the money received must go toward education and gang prevention, such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), and the remaining funds must be used for “legitimate law enforcement use.”

“We’ve used it for K-9s and raid vests for SWAT teams,” Wollman said. “It really helps in bad budget years. We can use these funds and not take it from our general operating budget.”

The new thermal imaging device will help field operations locate a person or an object in a heavily wooded area because it uses heat as a locator.

“If we can see a suspect and he doesn’t know we can see him, it’s a much safer operation for us to go in and get him,” he said.

Daly City police also are using $8,000 from the asset forfeiture funds to update its RIMS Training Management System, which is a computer tracking system that compiles officer training information.

Dirty money: Gaining cash from crooks

Asset forfeiture cases initiated during 2008 by some California counties, by county.*

Number of cases initiated: 283 
Estimated value of assets seized: $1,466,518

Contra Costa
Number of cases initiated: 184
Estimated value of assets seized: $851,734

Los Angeles
Number of cases initiated: 655
Estimated value of assets seized: $7,709,355

Number of cases initiated: 14
Estimated value of assets seized: $107,376

Number of cases initiated: 411
Estimated value of assets seized: $1,633,282

San Diego
Number of cases initiated: 16
Estimated value of assets seized: $78,973

San Francisco
Number of cases initiated: 301
Estimated value of assets seized: $938,012

San Mateo
Number of cases initiated: 63
Estimated value of assets seized: $378,788

* Not a complete list

Source: California Department of Justice, Asset Forfeiture Annual Report 2008


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