03/31/2013 02:12 EDT | Updated 03/31/2013 02:36 EDT

Gangster Cars To Be Used By Police In BC

Flickr: BC Gov

Police in B.C. will be able to use flashy vehicles seized from gangsters or drug dealers to warn young people about the risks of criminal activity.

B.C.'s civil forfeiture office is loaning two vehicles to law enforcement agencies for two years to be used at media events and community presentations, especially to target youth and deter gang involvement, said a Saturday news release.

"I think young people appreciate the irony when they see a drug dealer's vehicle turned into something that supports police and public safety," said Attorney General Shirley Bond. "We believe the value of loaning vehicles on an ongoing basis will far exceed what we’d get by just auctioning them off."

The move follows a unique program by the Abbotsford police. In 2011, the department turned a forfeited Hummer H2 once used in the Victoria drug trade into a "rolling billboard." Vivid anti-gang messages such as "Easy money can get you hard time" were displayed on the expensive SUV, as well as a large sign that read: "This vehicle was seized from a drug trafficker."

Abbotsford police Chief Const. Bob Rich said the Hummer "opened the door to important, potentially life-saving conversations" between youth and officers. When the force's two-year loan was up, it joined with community partners to buy the vehicle and "keep the dialogue flowing," he said in a statement.

The type of vehicle on loan will be determined by what's seized by officials over the next few months, reported The Province. A 2009 Gran Turismo Maserati is among the current items subject to administrative forfeiture.

B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), a special team that fights organized crime, is the first agency approved under the loan program.

Police departments would only have to pay for operating costs and insurance during the loan. If they don't opt to buy the vehicle after two years, it would be returned to the civil forfeiture office to be auctioned off or loaned to another law enforcement agency.

A vehicle will not be loaned to any department involved in its forfeiture, and only those seized from drug or gang involvement will be loaned to police.

Since it began in 2006, B.C.'s civil forfeiture office has seized about $31 million worth of items, including more than 100 vehicles, linked to criminal activity. Almost all of the vehicles are sold through online auctions.

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