Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota seized cars, cash and other property 6,338 times in 2011, State Auditor Rebecca Otto said Wednesday in releasing her agency's annual report on forfeitures.
The auditor reported 4,604 forfeitures in 2010; the jump for 2011 may be the result of Legislature-mandated changes in what must be included in the forfeiture report.
Minnesota allows law enforcement agencies to seize cash or property, including cars and firearms, in connection with crimes ranging from the use or possession of illegal drugs to drunken driving.
As a result of a 2009 scandal involving the now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force, the Legislature changed some forfeiture procedures. One such change requires law enforcement agencies to start reporting more categories of forfeitures, including the seizure of vehicles of people charged with drunken driving.
There were 2,785 drunken driving-related forfeitures, 44 percent of all forfeitures, in 2011. Authorities also made 3,189 forfeitures in connection with discovery of controlled substances.
Otto said that, over the long term, collecting the data will help illuminate what is happening with forfeitures. "Next year we will be able to compare back to this year," she said.
RANDY FURST and PAUL WALSH