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Cops helped by criminals' cash

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WPS Sgt. Ron Riffel demonstrates a sonar scanner purchased with money from the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

WPS Sgt. Ron Riffel demonstrates a sonar scanner purchased with money from the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund. Photo Store

A $356,000 grant from a fund that takes seized criminal property and turns it into cash will enable the Winnipeg Police Service to buy new equipment and training.

The money is part of more than $1 million that will be distributed over the summer as part of the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund, which, since 2010, has seized more than $5 million in assets. The money is used in part for police and victim services.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan, who made the announcement, said the fund is a good way to get money to police.

"It's always a pleasure to be able to support our police... it's even better when the funds to do so don't come from tax dollars, but come from those people who carry out unlawful activities," he said.

The police service will use the money it receives to buy two cargo vans, surveillance equipment, a licence-plate reader and safety equipment as well as training, and a "next-generation 911 system," Swan said.

Police also showcased a sonar scanner they use while diving in murky water, purchased with money from the fund last year.

The grant was funded largely through operations such as a drug bust in Brandon and Dauphin, in which five homes were raided and about $2 million in assets was seized, though that number is preliminary. Property seized, such as cars, real estate and furniture, are auctioned off or otherwise sold, and the money goes into the fund. Sometimes-large amounts of cash are found, said Gord Schumacher, director of the province's criminal property forfeiture branch.

"If it's a house we'll list it; if it's a vehicle we'll auction; and if it's cash we're always happy to deposit that," Schumacher said. "There's lots of money being discovered."

The fund distributes money to police several times a year. The last time was in fall of 2012, Schumacher said. As long as criminal property is seized the money will keep coming, Schumacher said. "It couldn't be more successful."

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 A13

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