North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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February 28, 2014

Alabama House bill would take stolen goods back from criminals

The Gardendale Police Department played a role in a bill that is working its way through the state legislature this session.

Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-51st, is sponsoring House Bill 75, which will allow police departments to seize certain items bought with stolen money.

Right now, a loophole in state law prevents law enforcement from seizing certain items that were purchased through identity theft or stolen credit cards.

“If you’re caught, you basically get to keep the money you stole,” said Gardendale Police Chief Mike Walker. “This bill is trying to stop it. These are not victimless crimes. The criminals are getting away scot-free and we’re trying to stop it.”

State law already permits police to seize some items from arrests, such as drugs and drug crime-related vehicles and money.

That is not true in some cases however, such as certain incidents when people use stolen information to purchase gift cards, which they in turn use to buy cash cards.

“From there they might purchase automobiles,” Tread­away said. “We can track the money all the way to the purchased item. But in the state of Alabama, we cannot seize those items.”

Two similar bills were being introduced in the House and the Senate. Treadaway said the Senate version is moving a little faster; Senate Bill 332 recently got out of committee and passed in the Senate. It is now being looked at in the House.

Gardendale Police Detective Chris Clark pointed out the problem to Treadaway, who is a lieutenant with the Birmingham Police Department. Clark contacted a district attorney in north Alabama, who helped write the bill.

“If it wasn’t for his push, I don’t think we’d be where we are with it right now, with a Senate and House version,” Treadaway said. “It just made good sense. Why would we want any criminal to obtain ill-gotten gains from his criminal activity? We need to close the loophole and seize these items.”

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