A report finds that two-thirds of forfeitures to police in Las Vegas were in ZIP codes where the average poverty rate is 27 percent and the average nonwhite population is 42 percent.
The majority of Las Vegas police civil asset forfeitures are done in low-income and minority neighborhoods, a Nevada Policy Research Institute report shows, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The report shows two-thirds of forfeitures to police were in ZIP codes where the average poverty rate is 27 percent and the average nonwhite population is 42 percent. The report shows a little more than half of the forfeitures concerned assets valued below $1,000. “These are the people that can least afford to fight back against the government in a court of law,” institute policy analyst Daniel Honchariw said. “It perpetuates this cycle of urban poverty.”
Since 2015, a criminal conviction has been a prerequisite for all civil forfeiture proceedings. The burden of proof shifts from the state to the property owner, who must prove that the assets are not directly linked to criminal activity. There are few protections for innocent third parties — people whose property was seized in connection with another’s alleged crime. Law enforcement seized $4.4 million in cash and property statewide, with Las Vegas Metro police seizing $2.1 million. All but 16 of the seizures targeted alleged drug offenders. The Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based libertarian think tank, gave Nevada’s civil asset forfeiture policies a grade of D-minus because of “weak protections for innocent owners and a strong financial incentive to seize.”