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Host: Scott LaMar

Civil Asset Forfeiture / 45 Years After Agnes

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Nov 25, 2017 8:00 PM
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On the Monday November 27th, 2017 edition of WITF's Smart Talk:

York County leads the state in seizure of personal property by police.  The York County District Attorney's Office has taken $4.4 million in property from citizens - $900,000 from auctioned cars.  The rate of car seizures by York County exceeds that of Philadelphia, Montgomery and Allegheny counties combined.

In some cases, money, cars and property are taken from real criminals, mostly drug dealers.  But many are having cars and cash seized for petty offenses; minor possession and even association with a person accused of a drug crime.  These properties are taken at arrest, prior to any attempt at due process. The recourse for getting back cars, cash and property is onerous and costly.

Supporters contend civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool in discouraging drug activity; it sends a message to youth that crime doesn't pay.  "Is it going to be the taxpayers, you know, to pay for enforcement or treatment, or is it going to be the bad guys?" asks York County District Attorney Tom Kearney.  Counties and municipalities use revenue to support police and drug treatment programs.

Critics see this as an unconstitutional seizure of private property by the government.  Pennsylvania state senator Mike Folmer, a Republican representing Lebanon County and portions of York and Dauphin Counties, argues civil asset forfeiture " . . . lacks the most basic notice and due process protections provided by other civil actions, and the fact that law enforcement has a financial stake in the process can lead to distorted decisions about when to pursue forfeiture."

York Daily Record reporters Ed Mahon and Dylan Segelbaum have parsed out the issue of asset forfeiture in that paper; they will join the Monday edition of Smart Talk to discuss the breadth of its use and share some startling examples from the region.

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York Daily Record reporters Dylan Segelbaum and Ed Mahon

Also, forty-five years ago, Hurricane Agnes hit the Yucatan Peninsula and headed north, shredding the east coast all the way through New York.  While in Pennsylvania, she dumped 12 inches of rain on the capital in twenty-four hours.  Flood waters rose to thirteen feet, forcing the evacuations of thousands of Harrisburg residents.  Fifty Pennsylvanians died, damages exceeded $2 billion.

Shippensburg University history major Frank Grumbine has researched the impact of Agnes on the region and will join Smart Talk to discuss the damage caused by Agnes and how the state has adjusted their management and response to devastating natural disasters.


Shippensburg University history major Frank Grumbine


- I do agree under due process that discipline is needed when a person commits a crime but I think in some ways the person is forfeiting more than they know because with everybody doing background checks simply having a criminal record will punish you by not being able to get a job.    - Paul

- Granted the number of civil forfeiture is large in York County, but did the reporters note any forfeitures that occurred despite no conviction occurring, just a suspicion or arrest? In other words, is property taken and then NOT given back when there is no conviction?                                           - Lee, York

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