MANSFIELD — Between the crime lab and an undisclosed location, the Richland County Sheriff’s Office has everything from cars to construction equipment to electronics.
It’s all unclaimed or forfeited property.
“If we took everything and sold it, I’d guess we have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property,” Capt. Eric Bosko said.
So what happens to the goodies?
“A lot of stuff depends on the case,” Bosko said. “If it’s evidence, we have to wait for the criminal case to be taken care of.”
The Ohio Revised Code offers other guidelines. Firearms for police work may be given to law enforcement for that purpose. Firearms suitable for sporting use or as museum pieces or collectors’ items may be sold at public auction.
All other firearms are to be destroyed.
“We do both (swap and destroy),” Bosko said.
The captain said the sheriff’s office will follow the order of the court or the prosecutor’s office to destroy certain guns. Others will be sold to federally licensed dealers.
“Sometimes we convert them to our own use,” Bosko said. “In doing so, that saves us $1,500 to $2,000 to buy a firearm.”
Bosko’s firearm, an AR-15, is an example of a gun that was converted for the department’s use.
One firearm in the crime lab remains a mystery. The 1827 flintlock gun is not linked to any case and has no paperwork. It has been languishing in the crime lab for 15 years.
The Mansfield Police Department destroys confiscated firearms.
“I know there’s millions of guns out there and it’s just a drop in the bucket (to dispose of local guns), but once we get our hands on them, I’d rather have them destroyed than to find out one was used in a crime,” police Chief Dino Sgambellone said.
Sgambellone said he would not want to carry a confiscated gun.
“You wouldn’t know the history of it,” he said.
But guns are far from the only property. Because of the overwhelming amount of items, the sheriff’s office hired retired city police Lt. Dave Nirode on a part-time basis.
“His sole job is to help with the disposition of property,” Bosko said.
Law enforcement agencies often prepare unclaimed or forfeited property for sale. First, a journal with a list of the property goes to the prosecutor’s office.
If the items are linked to a person, a letter goes out by certified mail. Unclaimed property then goes up for auction.
The prosecutor’s office is responsible for doing the advertising.
“Normally, we would hold a traditional auction,” Bosko said.
But the sheriff’s office is preparing for the first time to go online through GovDeals.com to sell property. That route is supposed to produce more money because of the larger audience.
The last regular auction generated about $20,000, divided between the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices.
Bosko said the sheriff’s office uses the money to purchase equipment, including bulletproof vests, firearms and radios. Proceeds from the next auction will go for new officer computers.
According to the ORC, any money from the sale of property will be placed in the general fund unless it is related to delinquent child proceedings in juvenile court, in which case 10 percent will be given to one or more alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs.
Sgambellone said the police department has been using GovDeals.com for several years.
“We don’t see that much money from this type of stuff,” he said. “(But) it’s definitely worthwhile to seize assets. It makes it harder for them to continue committing crimes.”