The local arm of the Department of Justice had a fruitful year in recovering cash and assets from criminals and criminal enterprises.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul reported Thursday that $53.6 million have been recovered as a result of criminal, civil, and forfeiture cases in Fiscal Year 2012. That's significantly more than the nearly $32 million dollars collected in 2011 and the $29 million recovered in 2010.
The money is being used to re-pay victims of crime, bolster local law enforcement efforts, and to fund community groups. Roughly $33 million dollars were returned to crime victims in the past year.
"[It's] a way to take the profit out of crime, to really take away one of the most important motives for why people commit crime," said Hochul.
Major Christopher Cummings says so far in 2012, the New York State Police has received $6 million dollars in asset seizure money.
"That's $6 million that the taxpayer didn't have to front," said Cummings. "It alleviates the taxpayers' burden on the funds we need to conduct...criminal investigations."
Cummings says turning around criminal money for law enforcement allows his agency to pay troopers overtime, and invest in new equipment.
Some of the money is distributed to partnerships with community outreach programs. Drug Enforcement Agency Resident Agent-in-Charge Dale Kasprzyk says in recent years, the Justice Department has been re-assessing the best ways to use the recovered funds.
"We did some very unique things to try to use forfeiture money to support programs that would help educate youth about the dangers of violence, the dangers of drug addiction, and the dangers of drug abuse," said Kasprzyk.
Kasprzyk says one example is the 'Gamechangers' summer basketball program in the City of Buffalo, which was paid for using asset forfeiture money.
Reverend Antwan Diggs, who runs Hananiah Lutheran Ministries at 900 Genesee Street in Buffalo, says recovered funds have helped grow his small church into a larger community asset.
"We could take on the task of going into a building that was once used for criminal activity and now it's used to feed about 244 individuals a month through our pantry. We also provide employment and training," said Diggs.
Rev. Diggs says new partnerships with the City of Buffalo and the Department of Labor have helped provide employment training and counseling for dozens of city residents.
"The Bible says that God takes the money of the wicked and stores it up for the righteous," Diggs said.