Since the beginning of the year, the Gardner Police Department has issued 11 search warrants for narcotics.
That’s a major increase over past years, but one that sends a clear message – drug enforcement is becoming a priority.
The increased enforcement isn’t because Gardner has a major drug problem – it’s on par with most communities – but because drug enforcement wasn’t a priority in past years.
Jim Pruetting, police chief, says drug crimes often bleed over into other areas: crimes against persons and property.
To that end, the department has added a bike patrol, K9 unit and a detective.
Gardner also has a policy regarding forfeitures related to narcotics enforcement, as required by state statute. One major drug bust last year accounts for a near doubling of proceeds in the Law Enforcement Trust Fund to more than $16,000.
Cash and property forfeitures are civil proceedings, while narcotics charges are criminal; Kansas law does not require forfeitures be returned if there is no conviction.
Neither does Gardner; in part because it’s not yet been an issue.
We believe seizures/forfeitures made – if no conviction follows – should be returned, if claimed.
We’re not alone.
This year the Legislature considered, but did not pass, amendments to the state’s criminal forfeiture law, which is considered one of the toughest in the nation, because – unlike other states – it does not require a criminal conviction to retain an individual’s personal property.
When the Legislature did not take action, the state’s auditing arm conducted a review of several large agencies; some were found lacking in record keeping.
A quick review of Gardner’s Special Law Enforcement Trust Fund indicates it is current and on point in keeping with state statute and the city’s ordinance.
In brief, funds can be used only to defray costs of lengthy investigations; for technical equipment or expertise; or to provide matching funds for federal grants. Funds may not be used as part of the department’s ordinary operating costs.
Notice of property seizures are made to individuals and a chain of custody for property appears to be followed.
While we understand that Kansas currently does not require property be returned if there is not a criminal conviction, we wish Gardner would be proactive and adopt a mechanism for such individuals to claim seized property, if they desire.
We applaud the GPD’s efforts to keep our community safe.
Well done.