Pubdate: Tue, 01 Jan 2013
Source: Dispatch, The (NC)
Copyright: 2013 The Lexington Dispatch
Author: Nash Dunn, The Dispatch


About one-fourth of the estimated cost of the new Davidson County
Sheriff's Office project will be funded through confiscated drug money.

Davidson County Sheriff David Grice budgeted about $1,050,000 in
forfeiture funds to acquire the site of the proposed office and pay
for site preparation and construction.

While the Davidson County Board of Commissioners has yet to approve
any building, Grice said he thinks the forfeiture funds have helped
the project progress so far.

"It's expedited the situation because it is one-quarter of the
theoretical cost of the project," Grice said.

A space needs study conducted in 2009 showed the sheriff's office in
need of an additional 30,000 square feet of usable space. Grice said
he has deputies working in storage closets at the current office,
located on the bottom floor of the Davidson County Courthouse on West
Center Street, and a new building would help the department

In December 2011, commissioners approved the purchase of about six
acres of land near U.S. Highway 64 East near County Home Road for
$250,000. In October, commissioners voted to demolish several
buildings for about $190,000 at the site, the former home of the Lank
of Lexington manufacturing campus.

After originally planning to renovate the buildings at the Lank of
Lexington site for the new sheriff's office, the board decided in July
it would be more cost effective to clear the site and build anew.

The land purchase and demolition project were both paid for with drug
forfeiture funds. There should be more than $500,000 left to help
finance the actual building process.

"Anytime you can use dollars like that instead of using property tax
dollars, it helps us as far as maintaining the tax rate like it is,"
said Zeb Hanner, assistant Davidson County manager. "That's money that
they've confiscated that can be used for good purposes instead of bad."

Grice said he's used the drug money for the purchase of surveillance
systems, police cruisers, night vision equipment, crime scene
equipment and many other uses over the years. The office's new firing
range, which Grice said will end up costing about $750,000, was paid
for almost entirely with drug forfeiture funds.

Federal laws allow law enforcement agencies to retain up to 80 percent
of assets seized from forfeitures.

Assets seized by the sheriff's office go into a fund operated by the
Davidson County Finance Department, Grice said. County commissioners
must sign off on each withdrawal from the fund.

Grice said funds have been seized during stops by the office's
Interstate Criminal Enforcement team, as well as searches at houses in
the area.

The Davidson County Sheriff's Office seized about $212,000 in 2011
alone, Grice said.

"We've been lucky with several seizures since I've been here," Grice

One traffic stop in June 2005, for instance, eventually led to one of
the largest seizures in the department's history.

On June 21, 2005, deputies stopped a 2005 Chevrolet Impala for failure
to maintain a lane of travel. After approaching the car and talking
with its two passengers, Steven Tan and Xingyun Chiang, Lt. Marvin
Potter of the sheriff's office noticed the passenger door of the car
was improperly mounted. Canine officers detected an odor of narcotics,
which led deputies to find 31 bundles of money wrapped in
Chinese-language newspaper in the door.

The money, valued at $864,400, was seized. About $7,000 was also
seized from Tan's person.

Tan and Chiang fought the seizure and in 2010, appealed the decision
of a district court judge, who ruled in favor of the confiscation in a
forfeiture proceeding. Finding no error, the fourth circuit of the
U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

"We have reviewed the record, and we conclude that the government
presented sufficient evidence to carry its burden and show that the
currency was more likely than not proceeds from a drug transaction,"
according to a copy of the court's judgment.

The county received about $697,000 from the seizure, according to
court records. 
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