A handful of small Los Angeles County cities seize large amounts of cash and cars using a controversial federal law that allows them to confiscate property even when owners aren't charged with a crime, according to a report published by an advocacy group that promotes decriminalization of drugs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The seizures by police in South Gate, Beverly Hills, Baldwin Park and other small cities dwarf those made by much larger police departments in California from 2006 through 2013, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
Law enforcement agencies keep up to 80 percent of property seized under what's known as civil asset forfeiture, and several cities appear to rely on the revenue at a time of dwindling police budgets, potentially creating pressure on cops to make more seizures, says the alliance, which has long been critical of the practice and called for reform. The criticism comes amid mounting concerns nationwide that forfeiture leads to abuses, with reports of police taking cash, cars and even homes based on little or no evidence of a crime. In federal court, owners who seek a return of their seized property face the burden of proving it was not the product of criminal activity.