Informants, guns and travel: Seized funds free police to spend on wide range of items

This story is part of a collaborative reporting initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. See all the stories at taken.pulitzercenter.org. A sniper rifle, night vision goggles, confidential source payments, dog food and out of state conferences - these are some of the items that law enforcement agencies in Illinois have spent from money and property seized from citizens who may never have been charged with a crime. Under state and federal laws known as civil asset forfeiture, police departments may seize property - such as cars and cash - they believe is used in criminal activity. The owners of the property may never themselves be charged with a crime, and getting property back could take years and involve costly attorney fees.

TAKEN: Despite reforms, burden still heavy on owners of seized property

The value of the property seized has totaled in hundreds of millions of dollars in property, cash, jewelry and real estate over the last eight years, according to an analysis of Illinois State Police data by the Midwest Center for Investigative Center.