A battle is on to prevent millions of pounds seized from North East criminals being routinely handed over to the Met and other forces.
Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird is today backing a call for a change in the way money recovered from drug dealers and other criminals is allocated.
The elected police boss has hit out at a funding formula which she says often sees Northumbria keep only 50% of the money it claws back from some of the region’s richest and most dangerous criminals.
In some cases that figure is as low as 25%, the commissioner said.
But with typical payouts won through the courts then divided between the Treasury and the force, the region will only have kept half of the ï¿½11m raised in the last six years.
Much of the money handed back to the Government goes to other forces, with London’s Metropolitan Police thought to be among the bigger beneficiaries.
Already Northumbria Police has had to cope with budget cuts and savings, which have stripped the force of ï¿½67m, with 20% of non-frontline posts axed.
Ms Baird was on the parliamentary committee which helped draft the law when she was a Teesside Labour MP and says it is now long overdue a review.
Writing for The Journal, Ms Baird said: “I want our police to be able to see a drug dealer’s BMW or their gold jewellery used for better police equipment or passed on as funds for community initiatives such as trips for young people in the school holidays, bike maintenance classes or for tackling the alcohol abuse that fuels so much rowdiness in our city centres.” She added: “I was a member of the parliamentary committee that shaped the Proceeds of Crime Act 10 years ago and I strongly believe that it is time to update the law as well.
“Over time, wrongdoers have worked out how to get round the rules and stop some of their loot being recovered in the first place. That means there is less money and assets to share.”
The commissioner is backing a petition started by her West Yorkshire counterpart calling for forces to be allowed to keep all their recovered funds.
A petition on the Government epetition website states: “We call for all the money recovered from criminals to come back to our communities to tackle the causes and consequences of crime.
“Currently the Treasury takes half the money brought in by our police and prosecutors and we are calling for all the ill-gotten gains of criminals to be re-invested in our communities.”
The Proceeds of Crime Act is regularly used to recover funds from criminals.
That has seen drug dealers paying out in some cases more than ï¿½800,000 as officers use forensic accountants to go over the income of those targeted.
The Home Office did not comment last night on the call for a change in the law.