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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

February 17, 2015, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: Audit Reveals Cash, Drugs, Weapons Missing from Police Custody

Local law enforcement agencies did not properly safeguard seized property, including cash, drugs, firearms and vehicles, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit reviewed records in ten municipalities: Herkimer and Madison counties, the cities of Auburn, Elmira, Troy and Watertown; the towns of Hamburg, Irondequoit and Newburgh; as well as the village of Johnson City.

“When seized property is missing, it can jeopardize the prosecution of criminal cases and could result in dangerous items, such as drugs and firearms, making their way back into our communities,” said DiNapoli. “Without proper oversight, it’s impossible to know if the missing items were destroyed, transferred to other agencies, returned to owners or stolen. Fortunately, law enforcement officials in the municipalities we audited understand the seriousness of this issue and have already begun to implement many of the recommendations made in this audit.”

DiNapoli’s auditors reviewed the location of 4,244 property items and discovered 293 items (7 percent) were unaccounted for from law enforcement agency inventories. Of the ten agencies audited, only two – Elmira and Irondequoit – were able to account for each item tested. The inventories reviewed included property for criminal case evidence, property no longer needed as evidence for an investigation, contraband, property pending release and property confiscated for forfeiture proceedings.

Some of the items the agencies were unable to account for included biohazard materials, cash, drugs, electronics, firearms, jewelry and vehicles.

For example, in Newburgh, auditors identified more than $63,000 in cash that was documented as being held in current inventory, but could not be located. Department officials indicated the money was transferred to other agencies or returned to its owners, but were unable to provide documentation.

Six law enforcement agencies (Hamburg, Johnson City, Madison County, Newburgh, Troy and Watertown) had vehicles listed in current inventory that were no longer in their possession, including a Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee and two dirt bikes.

Four agencies (Herkimer, Johnson City, Madison County and Newburgh) were missing 21 firearms consisting of handguns, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

Drugs accounted for 31 percent of the missing items. In Watertown, nearly 700 tablets were missing and in Madison County 100 marijuana plants could not be located. Drugs missing from other agencies included cocaine, crack, heroin, methadone, oxycodone, steroids and Vicodin.

Additional findings include:

  • More than 600 items (15 percent of items tested) were stored by agencies in locations that differed from those recorded in the inventory records;
  • More than half of the items tested lacked supporting documentation to show the items were disposed of or returned to the proper owner; and
  • Eight agencies did not have appropriate controls over their inventory tracking systems.

DiNapoli recommended that law enforcement agencies:

  • Review and update their policies and procedures for controlling property in their custody;
  • Improve physical inventory testing procedures by having someone independent of the process trace items from the property room to the inventory list and vice versa;
  • Improve records that document the movement and disposal of property; and
  • Assign access to inventory tracking software based on job duties and responsibilities.

Law enforcement officials generally agreed with the audit recommendations and indicated they have already taken steps to address the concerns outlined in the audit. Their complete responses are included in the final audit report.

For a copy of the audit, visit:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/swr/2015/PPRI/global.htm

 

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