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Friday, 19 February 2016

Police vehicle seizure: Is it best practice?

Image result for tow truck cartoon

In this tweet
And I had commented   

Image result for met police tow truckAt one time I ran a central London car pound. What a miserable job that was. It was at a time when credit cards were not accepted, cash or cheque with guarantee card only, and the removal crews were very mercenary. Spending most of their time playing cards in the canteen and only removing the easy quick ones in large numbers before the end of their shift to make it seem that they had been at it all day.  This meant an office, mostly filled at the end of the day, with lots of sad and angry people, young kiddies in tow and babies in arms and  with no means to pay to get their cars back. 

Space in London of course is at a premium. We were always struggling to make space for vehicles and at times were totally full. Part of my job was to keep track of these vehicles and some had been long forgotten, abandoned for years, gathering muck and dust and several of them were top of the range, like Rolls, Bentley or Jaguar seized as the proceeds of crime and so on. I decided to trace the history of these vehicles, track down the investigating officers to find out why we still had them and why they could not be returned to their lawful owners. 

There was a Ford Transit van that had taken up valuable London space for about three years.  When I queried this it turned out that it was a Detective Chief Superintendent's only remaining link with some long gone bank robbers. I pointed out that as every test, fingerprint, and photo had been taken at the outset, there was no reason to keep the van. We sold it but would've got much more for it three years younger. 

In other cases, the owner had long ago been convicted and was now a guest of her majesty so why hadn't it been returned to his people or auctioned on conviction?

But costly space isn't the only problem. What about the depreciation and damage of an expensive car, seized as possible proceeds of crime, where the accused is eventually acquitted years later?  Isn't he entitled to compensation for all damage and depreciation?  I am sure he is. Some fraud inquiries go on for years.

Coppers really do have a mischievous joy in 'getting his wheels' mentality but in many cases, the villains have no concern about the old banger or stolen vehicle anyway, and just get another.

At the time I suggested that whilst art, paintings and jewelry accrue in value and take little space, they should be seized in preference to motors which are the exact opposite. As today, there was no-one in police management to realise any of this or care too much either. So here we are still 'getting their wheels  and never mind the cost or liability'. 

I imagine seized vehicles are now towed and stored by contractors for a large fee. How much is vehicle seizure costing police? Is anyone asking? Is it cost effective and best practice? Anyone checking if all auctions are straight and the best deal being achieved? No little favours being done for friends here and there? I bet our fast track and naive academic police managers have not even considered it.  

Any police managers interested?

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