Vice Squad
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Victory #6

Tuesday's reverse sting operation on the west side of Chicago that Carol Marin
wrote about yesterday receives more ink today (registration required; link
good for one week). Tuesday's total haul -- 288 would-be buyers arrested, along
with 29 alleged sellers. (No word if any of the arrestees are speculators,
engaged in both buying and selling.) Over the course of the recent reverse
stings (the overall operation began on August 21), some 1,265 of our friends
and neighbors have been arrested. To repeat our mantra, well, it's
over, we have won the war on drugs!

The reverse stings started about 3PM on Tuesday and were ended at
nightfall. Why? "for the officers' safety". Wow. Imagine the poor folks
who live there and can't leave at nightfall. Hmmm, if only we could think
of some policy change that would bring more safety to the neighborhood.

Those who were arrested had their vehicles seized. "Owners will
have to pay a minimum of $650 in fines, towing and storage fees to get their
vehicles back..." Does anyone remember when you had to be found
guilty of something before being punished? How did we ever manage
under such a primitive system?

I do not know under what authority these cars were seized, though the
general issue of civil asset forfeiture is, of course, a major one in
drug regulation in the US. More on this as Vice Squad progresses. For now
I will restrict myself to just one small observation that is related
to the two large cannabis plant discoveries in the past 8 days in Chicagoland.
These discoveries were made on publicly-owned land. Why? In part, perhaps,
because of civil asset forfeiture laws. If these plants were growing on
private land, the owner's property would potentially be subject to
forfeiture. (In the majority of drug-related forfeiture cases, incidentally, no
criminal charges are even filed.) One result is an incentive to grow pot on
public lands -- and, to commandeer your neighbor's home for your crack house,
instead of using your own. How does asset forfeiture affect inner city neighborhoods?
Yale law professor Steven Duke notes: "Bankers have few incentives to lend
money on such property, for the bank itself can lose its security interest if
forfeiture occurs."

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