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8/7/2006
California: LAPD Prostitutes Hook 500 Cars
Los Angeles Police Department officers act like prostitutes in order to seize automobiles, netting $325,000 for the department.

A prostitute
Police officers acting like prostitutes in Los Angeles, California are not looking to take money from their street walking, they're looking to take their cars. Since 2003, they have seized over 500 cars with the department's cut being $325,000 in profit and the remainder going to the city attorney's office.

The program takes advantage of a December 2002 municipal ordinance that allows police to seize the vehicle of anyone accused -- not convicted -- of soliciting a prostitute. That accusation can be based on the vaguest of exchanges with the "trick task force" member.

"You just know," a 38-year-old officer identified only as Heather told the Los Angeles Daily News. "You look. You see. You smell it."

Once seized, vehicles are held by the city until a civil hearing is held. In this hearing, the traditional rules of evidence and burden of proof do not apply. Instead, the city only needs to prove its case with a "preponderance of the evidence," not establish its case "beyond a reasonable doubt," in order to keep the car. The city attorney then will offer to sell back the car to its owner through a settlement offer. If the settlement is not accepted, the city will auction the car and keep the proceeds. The Los Angeles Police Department plans operate its car seizure sting at least once a month through October.

Source: Undercover officers know tricks of prostitute trade (Medianews Group, 8/6/2006)

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