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Shelby Township

Reforms see smaller inventory at 2012 Shelby police auction

September 26, 2012

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Shelby Township Police Sgt. Scott Trumbo holds up a purse that was among the items for sale at the police auction Sept. 22 at the township’s municipal grounds.

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Bigger isn’t always better, and Shelby Township Police Chief Roland Woelkers believes that applied to his 2012 police auction Sept. 22.

The auction featured fewer vehicles, and Woelkers said that was evidence of reforms to the auction process, as well as diligent work by his department.

“It’s going to be one of our small auctions,” Woelkers said Sept. 20. “We simply don’t have a lot of property. There used to be 30 to 40 cars.”

This year’s police auction featured 18 vehicles, and the 2011 auction saw an inventory that included 27 vehicles.

The reduction in inventory, though, doesn’t mean the officers made fewer seizures.

Woelkers said his department works throughout the year to sell forfeited items to their previous owners without needing to store vehicles for the auction process and its requisite overhead.

“A lot of people, we offer to buy (property) back on bond,” Woelkers said. “They put a bond on that property, and they take it back. And we put that in the forfeiture fund, so we take in more money and less property.”

Funds generated from the auction of seized vehicles and property goes to the township’s general fund, and funds from the auction of retired police vehicles go to the Police Department’s fund balance.

Along with the reduction in the number of retired vehicles at this year’s auction, Woelkers said, there’s a lack of inventory at this year’s police auction because it didn’t feature any vehicles from the township towing contractor, which Woelkers said provided the “majority” of past inventory. This is the first auction taking place during the term of the current towing contractor.

“There are no private entities involved in the auction,” Woelkers said. “We changed the auction practice to keep it separate from the towing company. We do our auction; they do their own auction.”

The auction reforms were part of a study of the Police Department done by Municipal Consulting Services that was presented to the Board of Trustees Sept. 6, 2011.

The report stated that the department should “develop improved management and accounting controls for abandoned vehicle disposal and the auction process.”

This recommendation further noted that the previous “systems are inadequate to assure compliance with legal requirements,” and “the contracted towing company should have a lesser role in determining vehicle disposition.”

“The establishment mentality is gone,” Township Supervisor Richard Stathakis said of reforms such as the removal of private entities from the police auction.

“We’re changing things for the better, and (the police auction) is one policy that I am so glad is changed.”

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