Police Set Up Crime, Entrap College Student’s Cellphone and $100
Though none were criminally charged, 523 in Michigan still lost property forfeited to police last year
In 2016, police officials from two Michigan cities teamed up to place an advertisement soliciting sex on a website commonly used for prostitution.
The Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team, which is a joint operation of police officers from the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage created to run drug investigations, then used an informant to agree to be a prostitute for the sting operation.
On March 31, 2016, a Western Michigan University student answered the fake advertisement. When he paid the informant $100, police were listening from an adjoining hotel room and through the door. The student was not arrested but admitted to paying for sex.
The WMU student was never charged with a committing a crime because this would have required the police to name the informant. Yet police seized his cellphone and $100 anyway and kept it through a process known as civil asset forfeiture.
In Michigan, one in 10 people whose property is taken and kept by police in forfeiture actions is never charged with a crime. A state report shows that more than $15.3 million in cash and property was forfeited last year.
That WMU student was one of 523 people who had seized property forfeited without being charged with a crime. In this case, police created the circumstances for the crime to be committed and then did not charge the individual they lured. But they did keep his money and cell phone.
Michigan Capitol Confidential has sent Freedom of Information Act requests to dozens of local and state agencies asking for the reports involving cases in which property was seized and then forfeited to police. The information for this story came from the public records received from a FOIA request.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and City Manager Jim Ritsema didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.