Greenville City Council Using Seized Assets for Law Enforcement Purchases: Financial Trouble Ahead?

Which isn’t unusual per se but is usually indicative of financial problems in cities. Many large cities use seized assets to pay for things like drug rehabs, youth programs and other community services. In cities where police are equipped and sometimes even paid partially with seized money the police have often been found to be motivated to make seizures that sometimes don’t pass the smell test.

From WSPA:

Greenville County Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will help residents and visitors of downtown Greenville sleep a little easier at night and enjoy their visit a little more.

At a City Council meeting Monday night, council approved the use of $10,000 in seized assets to purchase and place a new surveillance camera that they hope will allow police to keep an eye out for criminal activity.

Greenville police say the surveillance cameras in downtown Greenville have been instrumental in helping them catch criminals and the goal of adding a new one is expected to do the same.

Lt. Joe Browning with the Greenville police department says, “Having those cameras there makes some folks think twice before they knock out a window.”

Most recently the surveillance cameras in downtown Greenville were key in catching the suspects who investigators say vandalized a brick statue on Main Street.

Lt. Browning says, “We had a new statue installed just below the Greenville news and some individuals decided to vandalize that statue by removing the head. We were able to go back and get video footage of the actual crime, the vehicle they were driving and it didn’t take us long to solve it after that.”

The new camera is going to be placed in the courtyard next to the Marriott and Greenville City Hall. Lieutenant browning says there hasn’t been a lot of criminal activity in this area but the camera will act as more of a deterrent to keep criminals away.

In a seperate vote, City Council members unanimously approved an ordinance that provided additional officer training for Greenville police. The use of $100,000 in seized assets was allowed in passing the ordinance.

“You want to get the best officer you can out there and utilizing the latest tools and information that is available on the street,” says Browning.

$110,000 in seized funds, which is money received as part of criminal investigations is used to go back into law enforcement efforts, such as officer training and this proposed surveillance camera.

That $110,000 is nothing to sneeze at either. The 2010-2011 projected budget estimates a decrease in business and permit fee income of at least $1,409,501 and that’s with the rosy view the city council takes that the economy is turning around and we’ll be seeing continued city and county growth. Obviously they’re not familiar with the Laffer Curve.

On page A-4 we see they expect fine revenue to go up $15,000 and a increase in the solid waste fees Greenville collects from $8.50 to $11.50 per month. We also learn in that same section that low interest rates cost the city $42,817. That page also announces a freeze on public employee “merit adjustments” which I suppose is a fancy way to say yearly raises. There’s also a 10% increases to health care premiums.

On page A-5 we learn the city managers contingency accounts was drastically reduced from $238,000 to just $50,000

On page A-8 we are shown a chart that makes clear as tax revenue went up ALL other economic activity went down.

Page A-11 shows “general expenditures” including the police budget. We see that policing costs shot up from $15,531,394 in the ’07-08 fiscal year to $18, 999,034 in the ’09-10 fiscal year. The projected budget for this fiscal year sees a .07% drop in police expenditures.

And herein lies the problem. The police have increased their budget every year in part to deal with a massive influx of new residents and college students who, in good times, would bring with them fresh infusions of cash to pay for the extra services. But in reality most people who moved down here are like me, they moved to save money and planned on spending less. This trend will continue at a pace the city council is refusing to recognize.

But now that the door is open to funding through seizure what will the police do when it turns out that city council projections for growth were wild-eyed Keynesian fantasizing at best? They will try to make up the shortfalls with more busts that lead to property seizures, which opens the door for the kinds of abuses liberals at Coffee Underground are always claiming they suffer, but haven’t really seen yet. The cops have already eliminated an investigative services specialist position (pg A-12) and now all the cops are going to be wondering if they’re on the chopping bock.

When a police officer thinks his ability to keep his job has become tied to how much property the police can seize in drug busts those couple of dime bags the cops usually fine you for are going to look an awful lot like a dealers stash and the Volvo your parents pay for will be auctioned off. Scandals involving just that sort of thing are fairly common place in large metro areas, and Greenville, which is a growing community hemorrhaging money, is getting just big enough to see the same thing.

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