Car Seizures By Cops Up In L.A., Other Cities

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Drag racing has plagued Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, generating noise, trash, and complaints, says the Los Angeles Times. Last summer, when four people died in street-racing accidents in one month, police tried something different: They seized two Camaros from racers. “Most people think that their automobile is worth more than going out and laying some rubber down in the street,” said Deputy Chief Ronald Bergmann. The car confiscation program was so successful – Bergmann said there have been no reports of street racing in the Valley in six months – it was expanded to drug cases. Officers have seized 10 cars and made 16 arrests. “If we can reduce the number of people who are buying and selling narcotics by seizing and selling [their vehicles], that may be easier than putting them in jail,” Bergmann said.

Los Angeles police, like departments across the nation, increasingly are seizing vehicles. In the last 15 months, 181 cars have been seized by the LAPD. Two city council members, with the backing of the police chief and city attorney, want to grab the cars of drunk-driving suspects. Some have filed claims of civil-liberties violations. In March, a federal judge ordered New York City police to return more than 6,000 cars because defendants weren’t given enough of a chance to contest the seizures. In 2002, a judge voided New Jersey’s vehicle-forfeiture system because it violated due process rights of suspects and gave law enforcement a financial incentive for seizures.


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