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NYPD asset seizure data reveals millions in unclaimed cash and property, legal settlement shows

Police turned over documents detailing the money and property it seized as part of an agreement with the Bronx Defenders.

As part of the settlement, filed on Monday

As part of the settlement, filed on Monday morning, the police department turned over the documents that contain records of cash, cars and cellphones taken from people from July 2016 to June 2017, according to the Bronx Defenders. Photo Credit: iStock

The NYPD turned over about 160,000 documents showing the money and property it’s seized mainly from arrests, according to an agreement officially reached Monday with the Bronx Defenders.

As part of the settlement, filed on Monday morning, the police department turned over the documents that contain records of cash, cars and cellphones taken from people from July 2016 to June 2017, according to the Bronx Defenders.

The settlement follows a Freedom of Information Law request initially filed in July 2014. In 2016, according to the Bronx attorney group, they took the department to court.

The city’s Law Department said their record-keeping prioritizes the safeguarding of personal data.

“The NYPD system in place is primarily used for the efficient management of property that comes into NYPD’s possession through seizures and other methods, not for reporting out on various informational requests, especially since the system contains personal information of members of the public,” a Law Department spokesman said in a statement.

“There has been no allegation that any of the assets were mishandled. In an effort to be more transparent, the NYPD was able to provide information to satisfy the Bronx Defender’s FOIL request and end the litigation while at the same time protecting the personal information in the database.”

The money or property can come from several scenarios, including being held for safekeeping if someone is arrested, or seized as evidence in a case. It can also be taken as a civil forfeiture, or cash that an agency would keep if it was the proceed of a crime.

According to the Bronx Defenders, in 2016 the NYPD kept about $1,500 as a result of civil forfeiture and retained about $6.3 million in unclaimed cash and money made from the sale of property.

“How much of that came from safekeeping money, for example, that people never picked up?” said Adam Shoop, the legal director of the civil action practice at Bronx Defenders. “For whatever reason, I don’t know.”

Shoop said the NYPD is not great at giving out property vouchers to people who are arrested, the first step for someone who hopes to reclaim money or property seized.

In the case of an arrest, for example, the NYPD has to hold on to property for 120 days after the date of that arrest, Shoop said. In other cases the timelines vary.

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