U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $4.5 billion in asset forfeiture cases in 2014, while the FBI says the total value of goods stolen by criminals in burglary offenses that same year amounted to about $3.9 billion in property losses. Martin Armstrong points out in his Armstrong Economics blog that this can be interpreted to mean that police are now taking more assets than criminals.
The shadowy tactics of asset forfeiture has come under scrutiny in recent years by the media, government watchdogs and some public officials. Last January, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder prohibited federal agencies from accepting assets seized by state and local law enforcement agencies unless the owner is convicted of a crime. Writing recently for Bloomberg News, finance expert Noah Smith suggested that the abuse of stop-and-seize authority is turning some police agencies into “self-funding gangs.”