For example, roughly 11,000 seizures in Cook County over the five-year period were for amounts lower than $1,000. Nearly 1,500 were for amounts under $100.
Filtering out higher dollar amounts shows those petty seizures were even more tightly clustered in the South and West Side of Chicago.
While the list of seized items contains common tools of the drug trade such as safes, digital scales, and money counters, it also contains things like flashy jewelry, flatscreen TVs, and a copy of the Call of Duty: Ghosts video game.
“Not only has law enforcement in Chicago snatched a staggering amount of money through forfeiture in recent years, much of what they have taken is small-dollar properties,” Dick Carpenter, director of strategic research for the Institute for Justice, says of the data. “Despite claims by forfeiture proponents, this is hardly the stuff of vast drug networks and crime bosses.”
The pattern of seizures being clustered in lower-income neighborhoods is consistent at a smaller, block-by-block level as well, says Hilary Gowins, content director at the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative policy think-tank that supports legislation in Illinois to tighten rules for asset forfeiture.
“The North Side is known for being the affluent side, but one of the only neighborhoods that’s not as well-to-do is Rogers Park,” Gowins says. “It’s got a lot of problems with crime. In that area, you’ll see a lot of dots.”