By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desi Racicot says money seized from drug dealers has paid for advanced technology that helps his department solve crimes.
But asset-forfeiture funding coming in to North Country police departments is dropping because dealers are using different methods for their transactions.
“They are finding more ingenious ways to move their product other than using big amounts of cash,” Racicot said.
“Our No. 1 priority is still to disrupt the organization and take the drugs, but it is typical now, instead of using money to buy drugs, it is drugs to drugs.
“Asset-forfeiture money has stopped, and that’s going to have an impact on a budget,” the chief said.
Under federal and state rules, seized money can’t be used to replace tax dollars in a municipality’s budget.
But it has been used to purchase equipment, make building modifications and provide training, Racicot said.
An example in the Plattsburgh City Police Department is its FARO scanner, a device that supplies its user with three-dimensional images and measurements.
“It saves us a lot of work at crime scenes or a fatal crash, and we’ve used it for a train wreck,” Racicot said.
Rather than using hours of employee time to physically measure all aspects of an accident or crime scene, the FARO scanner can calculate and take many more precise digital measurements in just a few minutes, he said.
Each unit costs $40,000 to $60,000, so it isn’t available in every police department, but the city got its device because of drug-seizure funds.
allow you to give the department the resources that, otherwise, municipalities can’t afford,” the chief said. “We always strive to do the best we can with what we have.”
LONG WAIT FOR MONEY
And what little money still trickling in from asset seizures is tied up in red tape, Racicot said.
Because forfeitures usually involve state and federal law-enforcement units, it takes time for requests for asset disbursements to be processed.
Racicot said he is still waiting to learn when the funds from cases dating back to 2005 will be released. No assets can be disbursed until all of the parties involved in the major bust have had their criminal cases resolved, which can take years.
The chief said he has spent asset money as wisely as he can.
“We’re using it for training and equipment to increase our expertise that allows us to continue drug investigations. If asset-forfeiture funds dried up, the department and the community would be hurt.”
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