In Massachusetts, the Lowell Sun’s Katie Lannan reports that the Motel Caswell suffered fewer drug arrests over the last several years than nearby commercial addresses, further straining the publicly-given rationale supporting forfeiture of the motel:
A review of Police Department arrest logs from 2007 through 2012 shows that despite a relatively high number of drug arrests at the Motel Caswell property in recent years, more suspects have been busted on drug-related charges at nearby addresses.
During the examined six-year time period, police made 19 drug arrests at the Motel Caswell at 450 Main St., five fewer than at the property where Walmart is located at 333 Main St. Twenty-six drug arrests were made at each of the properties located at 85 Main St. and 95 Main St.
The arrest logs do not indicate if an arrest took place inside a business or elsewhere on the property, like on the fringe of a parking lot. Not all entries list the business or location name along with the address where the arrest took place. For example, the address of 85 Main St. is shared by Home Depot, Applebee’s and a Burger King, with a large parking lot. Of the 26 arrests there, 14 were listed as occurring at Home Depot, and 5 each at Applebee’s and Burger King, with the remaining two not specifying the precise location.
Route 38′s other budget motel, the Motel 6, is at 95 Main St., along with an IHOP restaurant. Four of the 26 drug arrests at that address were listed as taking place at IHOP, with 22 at the Motel 6.
Regardless of where on the property the arrests took place, three addresses in town have seen more drug arrests than the Motel Caswell in the last six years. And yet the Motel Caswell is being prosecuted by the federal government for being a drug-arrest magnet.
“It belies this notion that the area’s great and there’s this one problem property, the Motel Caswell,” said attorney Scott Bullock from the Institute for Justice, the Arlington, Va.-based libertarian law firm representing motel owner Russ Caswell. “That’s not the case at all.
Bullock said that when the Institute for Justice first took on the Motel Caswell case in 2011, the team examined police logs and found the rate of arrests at the motel comparable to that of its neighbors. He said more recent statistics obtained by The Sun seem in line with those initial findings. Excerpted from Katie Lannan, Tewksbury motel feels fed heat, but more drug arrests nearby, The Lowell Sun, 13 Jan. 2012.
It seems doubtful the prosecution would persist with this preposterous forfeiture attempt but for the corrosive asset forfeiture incentives, the value of the property, the lack of a mortgage, and the independence of the motel. Participation in a corporate or franchisee structure likely provides some short-term cover against such overreach. However, wins against the Motel Caswells of the country would predict expansion against whatever properties incentivized law enforcement decide facilitated drug crimes because independent third-party actors consumed drugs on the property–which implies just about any property in the U.S. worth something to the seizing agency would be, under the stated rationale, subject to forfeiture.