When it comes to taking property that isn’t theirs, burglars are facing some stiff competition: law enforcement officers. In 2014, the Washington Post reports, the federal Treasury and Justice departments accumulated more than $5 billion via civil asset forfeiture—the controversial practice of law enforcement seizing cash and property from people, even if those people haven’t been convicted (or charged, for that matter) with a crime. During that same period, losses attributed to burglary came in at just under $4 billion, the FBI reports. The comparison (the first time civil asset forfeiture has come in ahead of burglary in these statistics) was first reported on the Armstrong Economics blog. There are, however, some caveats.
The Post points out that the sum of property lost to all types of theft—not just burglary—in 2014 was about $12.3 billion. Also, a large portion of the total income from civil asset forfeiture may be from a handful of high-dollar cases in 2014, such as the $1.7 billion Bernie Madoff judgment—and some money, in cases like those, goes back to victims. But, even when looking at a more stable indicator to account for things like payments to victims, the forfeiture number hit $4.5 billion last year. State and local police also use civil asset forfeiture, and according to the Institute for Justice, the 14 states for which there were reliable data collected $250 million in 2013. Figures like these have fueled critics' calls to do away with the practice—originally a tool for the war on drugs—altogether. Several states have either passed or are discussing civil asset forfeiture reforms, the Daily Signal notes. (Read more civil forfeiture stories.)