The Virgin Islands Police Department recently received $257,538 in asset forfeiture funds from the U.S. Department of Justice, Police Commissioner Novelle E. Francis Jr. and acting U.S. Marshal Reginald Bradshaw announced Thursday.
The asset forfeiture funds are proceeds from the sale of property seized and forfeited by the Drug Enforcement Administration with the assistance of the Virgin Islands Police Department.
Local law enforcement agencies, including the VIPD, that participate in federal investigations receive an equitable share of the forfeited assets based on the degree of their participation. Under federal law, property involved in various crimes, including drug offenses, may be seized and forfeited. Equitable sharing, the process by which local law enforcement agencies obtain a share of federally forfeited property, is encouraged in order to enhance cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Equitable sharing payments can only be used for law enforcement purposes such as investigations, trainings, drug and gang education, awareness programs and other uses stipulated by law, Francis said. Failure to follow federal law or the U.S. Department of Justice policy governing the equitable sharing program might render local law enforcement agencies ineligible for future payments.
Francis said the program deters crime by removing the tools of crime from criminal organizations, depriving wrongdoers of the proceeds of their crimes and recovering property to compensate victims. It also strengthens local law enforcement by providing them with more resources to fight crime.
“We have a long way to go in the eradication of illegal drugs in our community,” Francis said, “and as the local government is faced with budget shortfalls in a climate of global recession, we appreciate this cash infusion that will be utilized for police equipment, crime prevention and other services.”
Francis pledged to utilize all available federal and local resources to increase safety and decrease crime in the Virgin Islands community.