Native regulation enforcement businesses seized simply over $1.3 million in money from suspected drug sellers and alleged unlawful playing institutions from 2019-2021, enabling them to spend money on know-how and gear upgrades.
In line with information obtained from the Ector County District Lawyer’s Workplace by way of the Texas Public Data Act, the Odessa Police Division did 90% of the seizing, taking in $1.18 million. The Ector County Sheriff’s Workplace seized slightly below $81,000 and DPS took in simply over $48,000 throughout that three-year timeframe.
In line with Texas state legal guidelines, regulation enforcement officers are allowed to grab money and property they consider are the ill-gotten features of felony exercise. Ector County District Lawyer Dusty Gallivan is then required to file a civil forfeiture motion in District Court docket, giving the money and property homeowners a chance to disprove the money and property are the results of unlawful actions.
“We by no means have hearings on these circumstances as a result of they often don’t present up,” Gallivan stated.
Seizing property and money and submitting forfeiture proceedings have induced controversies in different jurisdictions, however Gallivan stated he won’t file forfeiture actions except felony fees have been filed in opposition to the defendant or his workplace is near pursuing a felony case.
“Legally there doesn’t must be a conviction,” Gallivan stated. “My coverage is we won’t seize funds or property except there’s an related felony case. The case could not have been resolved but, however they’ve been charged with one thing whether or not it’s within the state system or the federal system, as a result of often you’ll get drug circumstances the place they’ll seize cash, but it surely’s not of the amount that the feds wish to take care of it, however the medication had been excessive sufficient the feds need it. So the felony case goes federal and we take the forfeiture motion.”
Submitting solely when there’s a felony case is honest, he stated.
“I don’t get to interrupt into your home and steal your TV after which, after they arrest me for doing that, hold your TV. So I imply, it goes the identical with some other crime, however not all prosecutors have that philosophy,” he stated. “I can’t converse for everyone throughout the state. That’s how we do it right here.”
In line with information, the regulation enforcement businesses have additionally seized automobiles, televisions, drones, energy instruments and a sound bar in recent times. OPD information present just a few of the automobiles have been saved to be used by undercover officers, the remainder of the property has been auctioned off.
Information present that whereas the overwhelming majority of the seizures are linked to drug circumstances, that’s not essentially the case in the case of the share of money seized.
In 2019, 51% of the money seized by OPD was tied to simply two unlawful playing circumstances. The opposite 16 circumstances filed concerned medication.
In 2020, 34 drug circumstances had been filed by OPD and one was a cash laundering case by which practically $44,000 was seized. Total, OPD seized $609,428 that 12 months.
In 2021, 50 forfeiture circumstances involving OPD had been filed and roughly 30% of the $421,589 seized was related to 5 unlawful playing circumstances. Seven of the 50 circumstances concerned theft circumstances and the remaining had been drug circumstances, information present.
Roughly $84,000 was seized in a catalytic converter theft case and practically $35,000 was seized from two folks accused of illegally promoting purchaser tags, that are momentary registration tags for motor automobiles. In a 3rd case, greater than $18,000 was seized from a person accused of promoting catalytic converters and medicines, information present.
Proving their property and money aren’t ill-gotten features might be considerably troublesome, Gallivan stated.
“It relies upon. We’ve had some folks, recreation rooms, who had been simply workers and the cops seized cash out of their purse, for instance. Nicely, we gave that cash again as a result of that, clearly, for my part, was not proceeds, despite the fact that it’s their wage and it got here not directly from the unlawful proceeds. They didn’t earn it illegally. They earned it as a part of their salaries, so we gave that cash again,” Gallivan stated.
Gallivan stated he doesn’t consider the very fact undercover recreation room operations usually lead to giant money seizures has been motivating regulation enforcement businesses to conduct such operations.
“However you realize, with any felony enterprise, that’s the quickest option to attempt to shut them down. You go after their cash. If can’t earn a living or hold the cash, they’re not going to remain in enterprise,” Gallivan stated.
There are strict guidelines about how regulation enforcement businesses can spend the money they seize or get after seized property is auctioned off, Gallivan stated.
His workplace, which receives a proportion of the money seized, however zero proportion of the public sale proceeds, makes use of it for know-how upgrades, Floor laptops and coaching, he stated.
“We use it to maintain our computer systems updated and we have now Surfaces. Due to COVID, we’d like the flexibility to work at home and that’s the place the Surfaces are available in. We presently have two workers who’re distant and we really simply employed one other two that can be distant so they only have Surfaces,” Gallivan stated.
Information obtained from OPD by way of TPIA requests present the division has additionally used its seizure cash for know-how.
“There’s a really restricted quantity of issues you could really use these funds for,” OPD Chief Mike Gerke stated. “You possibly can’t use it to love construct a brand new constructing. I can’t fly to Mexico for a trip. None of these issues. It’s simply gear.”
Gerke strongly believes in intelligence-led policing which ends up in law enforcement officials being deployed to areas the place the info exhibits crimes are occurring. In recent times, the division has invested in drones, incident administration cameras which are monitored on the metropolis’s Actual Time Intelligence Heart, Flock security cameras that learn license plates and CloudGavel, which is an digital warrant system that enables officers and judges to create, evaluation and course of arrest and search warrants within the area.
Requested in regards to the extent of the drug difficulty in Odessa, Gerke stated we’re not in contrast to different communities.
“I’d say like some other neighborhood in the US there are drug sellers in Odessa and we goal these guys. That’s a part of our intel-led policing technique, as a result of every little thing’s associated, proper? So narcotics sellers and violent crime and property crimes, the overwhelming majority of that stuff is all interrelated,” Gerke stated. “So the technique is to make use of no matter means, legally, to take away folks from our neighborhood which are inflicting social hurt. So if meaning if we all know of somebody that’s doubtlessly violent and we are able to make a narcotics case on them, then we’d go that route. Are there connections to cartels in Odessa? I’d say there’s in all probability connections to cartels in any neighborhood in Texas.”
Probably the most prevalent drug in Odessa presently is methamphetamine, adopted by marijuana, Gerke stated. Most circumstances are prosecuted within the federal court docket system, he stated.
OPD’s narcotics unit is comprised of a sergeant and 6 investigators, however because of CloudGavel, patrol officers now play a task in narcotics investigations, too, Gerke stated.
“We actually modified the position of patrol once we went to intelligence-led policing, so we gave them much more energy,” Gerke stated. “A patrolman’s job is not only to drive round and write just a few tickets and take reviews. We even have patrolmen getting (arrest) warrants and search warrants and that kind of factor on stolen property and on narcotics typically.”