The Providence Journal reports that asset forfeiture, an entrenched part of the war on drugs, has provided “a bounty for law enforcement and for substance abuse treatment programs” in Rhode Island. For the five years ended last December, state agencies and municipal police departments scooped up about $8.7 million in proceeds from drug asset forfeitures overseen by the state and federal governments. The proceeds come mostly from the seizure of cash and selling motor vehicles seized by the state and local police and federal agents. Occasionally, real estate is taken.
The Rhode Island agencies have spent it for a wide variety of purposes, from paying the salaries of police officers to buying stun guns and other equipment to building the Little Compton Public Safety Complex. When an item – usually a car or truck – is seized, they can opt to keep it or sell it. “It's the lifeblood of our narcotics unit,” said Providence police Maj. Thomas F. Oates III. “To have that money to buy drugs [undercover] and pay informants. It also is used to keep the narcotics fleet alive.”