A shocking new report reveals the egregious manner in which a South Carolina police department seizes property and money from residents.
Titled the TAKEN investigation, the report was first published by The Greenville News and The Independent Mail. It profiles several people who fell victim to abuse of power by the Greenville Police Department, finding the department had seized $17 million over the last three years.
The publications combed through approximately 3,200 civil asset forfeiture cases across the state. The results "yielded a clear picture of what is happening: police are systematically seizing cash and property — many times from people who aren't guilty of a crime — netting millions of dollars each year."
The reporters found 70 percent of the people affected by the seizures are Black and 65 percent of the money (roughly $11 million) was seized from Black men.
The News and The Mail use Isiah Kinloch of North Charleston as an example. Kinloch was hospitalized after a burglar broke into his apartment and struck the 28-year-old over the head with a glass bottle. While in treatment, police ransacked Kinloch's home and discovered an ounce of marijuana along with $1,800 cash.
According to the investigation, Kinloch used marijuana for medicinal purposes. He'd earned the cash working as a tattoo artist and shoe repairman.
Kinloch was booked on charges of possession of drugs with intent to share, but the charges were eventually dropped. His cash, on the other hand, was taken by the officers. Consequently, Kinloch was kicked out of his apartment because he was unable to pay the following month's rent.
The 28-year-old's predicament mirrors several of the stories outlined in the report. Up until now, the seizures have generally gone unnoticed by the state's government.
What's more astonishing are the dated practices used by law enforcement to confiscate the property. The reporters concluded the methods used are similar to tactics used in the 1980s when the war on drugs sought to end the serious narcotics epidemic in the Southern state.
In the '80s, officials handled cases involving large amounts of funds. Now, however, authorities were found to go after minor offenders, taking whatever money is in their possession.
According to the report, the seized amounts range from $18 to $50. The probe was conducted over three years, and the writers found a third of the seizures, about 1,500 cases, involved amounts of $500 or less.
The issue has reportedly become a burden for residents who have been forced to hire attorneys to handle their situations, which has meant more money is coming out of their pockets.
Unfortunately, this isn't just an issue in South Carolina.
In December, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report that found New Jersey officials took nearly $5.5 million and 234 cars in 1,860 seizure cases within six months.
In Texas, law enforcement took 10 times as much. According to The Texas Tribune, authorities in The Lone Star State seized more than $50 million in cash, cars and jewelry from citizens in 2017.
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