(SAVANNAH) The war on drugs continues and law enforcement continues to get a little help from the very people they pursue. Some drug busts produce a bonus for police budgets. When the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team, or CNT, moved in on 36 year old Jabril Whitehead in Savannah last week, agents report seizing an assortment of drugs, as well as a stolen gun, and more than $42,000 in cash. That money is now in evidence and it’s the target of seizure protocols. Sergeant Gene Harley, the public information officer for CNT, says large amounts of cash tell agents something about the level of business their suspect is engaged in. “In cases where we seize larger amounts of money we know we’ve arrested a large player. This is someone that’s obviously selling large amounts of drugs for a larger monetary profit.” said Harley.
Sergeant Harley says law enforcement doesn’t just get to keep the cash because they say so, they must appear before a judge who has to sign off before that money is absorbed into their budget. “We go through a legal process, like any other law enforcement agency throughout the state of Georgia. We will seize the money, we will give notice to the person the money was taken from, and they can either, claim the money or not make a claim against the money. either way, our cast still goes forward to a judge who overlooks it. there may or may not be a hearing, and the judge who is a third party, independent from us, will decide if we have a right to that money.” Harley said. He says police can also seize weapons, vehicles, and in some cases, even the homes of those involved in the drug trade.
Harley says once the judge awards police the money, it’s put to good use, which also eases the burden on taxpayers. “In most of the cases, all of the monies are put back into CNT’S operational budget. In doing so, allows us to continue our mission, whether that be to purchase equipment, or vehicles we need, or to send agents to specialized training, o r to get new equipment we may need…and doing so obviously, the, it’s almost like a kickback to the taxpayers because it means it’s less money, of the taxpayers that we’re having to use to fund our budget.” said Harley. CNT has retained more than $760,000 in cash seized in drug busts since 2013. Harley says CNT has already started the paperwork for forfeiture of the cash recovered in Whitehead’s arrest last week. He adds after the case is adjudicated, the stolen weapon recovered will be returned to it’s registered owner.