The Town of Tenaha, Texas (population 1000) is accused of rising revenue the old fashioned way: by stealing it. Citizens who have passed through the town have complained that property has been seized by Tenaha police and never returned, even though they were never charged with a crime. Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, is remarkably unapologetic or concerned, noting that the seizures helped them build a new police station and add a second police car for the town: “It’s always helpful to have any kind of income to expand your police force.”
The story is another example of the abuse of asset forfeiture laws by towns and cities looking for more revenue. Critics is called it “highway piracy.”
Tenaha has seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008. Only half were ever charged. People have complained that Tenaha police snatched anything of value from cash to cell phones to jewelry to a pair of sneakers, and even the car itself. Linda Dorman,an elderly lady from Akron, Ohio, says that police took her life savings of $4000. Her lawyer has alleged that most if not all of those stopped in the town were African Americans with out of state plates.
In their lawsuit, they allege that they were told that, if they waived their rights to the property, they would be released and not criminally charged.
The median income for a household in Tenaha is $18,807, and the median income for a family was $22,885.
The ACLU has campaigned against asset forfeiture abuse in past years.
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Kudos to Big Fella for passing along this story.