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Australia: Police Confiscate $200k Car at Enthusiast Gathering
Police raid on car enthusiast gathering in New South Wales, Australia generates more than $220,000 in revenue.

Car seizure 5/4/08
Thirty police officers descended on car enthusiast gatherings in New South Wales, Australia beginning at 5pm yesterday. The raids took place at Anzac Parade and Penrhyn Road resulting in a search of 72 vehicles, 39 tickets and 18 vehicle impoundments. The biggest prize was a classic Ford Falcon GT valued at A$200,000 (US $188,000) that was permanently confiscated on the grounds that it had performed a second burnout offense. It will be sold at a police auction. Another GT, three Holden Commodores, a Holden Utility, Holden Torana and a Nissan 200SX will be held for a minimum of three months for violating anti-hoon statutes. These laws prohibit so-called anti-social driving behaviors such as causing a vehicle to "undergo loss of traction by one or more of the driving wheels."

"Operation Torque was established after ongoing concerns from the community about the behavior of car enthusiasts in the Port Botany, La Parouse and Brighton Le Sands areas," NSW police explained in a statement.

Undercover police had staked out enthusiast gatherings for months to determine the best time for a blitz, documenting alleged offenses on hidden video cameras. In the first two months of the year, NSW police had seized a total of 84 cars, generating significant revenue.

"There's a lot of money being put into these motor vehicles," Botany Bay Local Area Commander Ron Mason told 2GB radio today.

Following the raid, a group of upset car owners, including relatives and friends, converged at the Roads and Traffic Authority impound lot to protest the police action. Although no violence was reported, authorities responded by calling out the riot squad. Police have grown increasingly harsh in their treatment of individuals accused of driving offenses at the urging of elected officials. In March, the NSW government considered legislation boosting the fines and associated penalties for "hooning" up to a maximum of $3300 and possible jail time.

"Apparently the drivers of those vehicles were aggressive and gestured with their middle fingers to police and to anyone else who was present," Member of the Legislative Council Fred Nile explained. "Some of our young drivers are very aggressive."

Car confiscation is big business in Australia. The state of Victoria seized 3437 cars generating $1 million in net revenue between July 2006 and December 2007. Often, authorities target high-end cars. In March, Western Australia police seized a $250,000 Aston Martin from a 52-year-old woman accused of speeding.

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