After 10 years, B.C.’s civil forfeiture program continues to combat gun and gang activity on two fronts, by taking away criminals’ ill-gotten gains and investing in outreach, intervention and awareness programs that steer youth away from gangs and crime.
To mark the program’s anniversary, Mike Morris, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, joined law enforcement representatives to crush a bullet-riddled 2003 BMW X5 that was involved in a local shooting in 2013. The SUV is among hundreds of vehicles, properties and other assets forfeited to date, most of which have had links to alleged drug production or distribution, possession or transport of illegal weapons, assaults and other organized crime and violent activities.
As well, the Province announced a $10,000 grant from civil forfeiture proceeds to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC). This funding will help sustain an ongoing series of anti-gang presentations by CFSEU-BC and a former gang member into the new school year. The grant builds on the nearly $2 million awarded to more than 60 youth anti-gang and crime prevention projects across B.C. in March, as part of the largest ever one-time grants investment in community crime prevention in B.C.
Facts and figures spanning the life of B.C.’s civil forfeiture program, operational since April 2006, include:
- More than 4,000 cases referred to the office, resulting in more than 2,600 forfeitures – nearly 2,000 of them uncontested – plus a further 202 cases now before the courts.
- Forfeiture proceeds totalling $65.8 million.
- Among the more unusual items forfeited, two helicopters allegedly involved in cross-border drug transportation, a warehouse used to store precursor chemicals for illegal drug manufacture, a house on the U.S. border employed in trafficking illegal immigrants, a gangster’s bulletproof SUV, and a ski chalet linked to an alleged drug importation scheme.
- $26.1 million in grants to support anti-gang outreach to youth, prevention of violence against vulnerable women and other crime prevention projects.
- $1.5 million in compensation to victims of crime, including fraud.
- Five vehicles that B.C. police agencies now use in anti-gang and youth crime outreach.
In March 2005, the Province announced it was “hitting back at organized crime” and related profits with new legislation targeting the tools and proceeds of unlawful activity. In turn, the self-funding Civil Forfeiture Office (CFO) – the second provincial program of its kind in Canada – would liquidate recovered assets like vehicles and real estate, then share proceeds with communities in support of crime prevention programs and victim services and compensation.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Morris –
“Civil forfeiture continues to have a direct impact on gangs and organized crime. It detracts from their ability and motivation to pursue drug manufacturing and distribution, as well as related violence that threatens innocent bystanders. But its value to law enforcement and public safety is also in its legacy, as millions of dollars in grants each year support grassroots efforts to keep kids out of gangs, as well as other violence prevention priorities.”
Chief const. Les Sylven, president, B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police –
“Civil forfeiture is an important tool for police and the public. While the focus of any criminal investigation is a conviction, civil forfeiture provides another legitimate way to combat organized crime at all levels. For police agencies, a straightforward case referral process has encouraged the use of the CFO to target vehicles, property, cash and equipment that are used to import, manufacture and distribute illegal drugs, as well as removing assets that are linked to other serious crimes. Police in B.C. look forward to further collaboration with government using this proven tool.”
B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/crime-prevention/civil-forfeiture-office
Annual lists of civil forfeiture grant recipients: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/crime-prevention/community-crime-prevention/grants
A backgrounder follows.