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Project November 29, 2018

Taken: How Police Profit From Seized Property

Screenshot from the Taken microsite. Image by Dan McCarey. United States, 2018.
Screenshot from the Taken microsite. Image by Dan McCarey. United States, 2018.

Taken is a collaborative reporting effort, supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, that mobilizes regional investigative newsrooms in America's heartland to scrutinize property seizures by law enforcement and also offers a deep dive into the complex state and federal data that reveals the seizure of private property without due process.

Every day, law enforcement agents strip Americans of billions of dollars in cash, cars, real estate, and other assets through civil asset forfeiture policies. These seizures happen during routine traffic stops and checkpoints, raids on homes and businesses, and other police operations. State and federal law enforcement agencies are permitted to seize property, often without due process, and in many states the laws allow them to keep the property, or more typically, the revenue from its sale.

The initial reporting will focus on Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas. Covering these states are the The Texas Tribune, Midwest Center for Investigative reporting, St. Louis Public Media, and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.  The stories from this project and related data visuals can be found here:

A few Midwest states have reformed their laws, but accountability and transparency remain an issue when reporting asset seizures. This project compares how much cash and property were collected through civil asset forfeiture, before and after reform laws were passed. The project also identifies the biggest benefactors from the programs, how the money was used, and cases of wrongful seizures on the state and local levels. In addition, it will include comparisons to states that have not passed reforms.

This ongoing collaborative reporting project is actively seeking investigative newsrooms and journalists from Midwestern states to join the initiative. We are interested in all forms of news storytelling—print, radio and TV broadcast, photo, and multimedia—but newsrooms should have an emphasis on data journalism investigation techniques. If you are interested in learning how to contribute to this project, please email us at [email protected].


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Land Rights

Land Rights