Brooklyn Boro

Comptroller’s audit reveals gaps in NYPD’s property tracking system

July 12, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on Monday released an audit that revealed inadequate management and controls over the NYPD’s collection, recording, and reporting of property brought to police precincts as a result of arrests and investigations, as well as property retained for safekeeping. 

The audit found significant deficiencies in the Property Evidence Tracking System (PETS), the NYPD’s computerized system meant to track this inventory, which compromise the NYPD’s ability to track and account for it on a centralized, aggregate level, according to the Comptroller’s Office.

The audit findings included unaccounted-for gaps in PETS invoice numbers and discrepancies in the NYPD’s records concerning seized and retained property, asset forfeitures and related revenues that the NYPD reported to the public for Calendar Years 2017 and 2018.

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The revenue-reporting discrepancies in the NYPD’s records involved missing documentation; cash receipts records that did not match the supporting paperwork; late or absent reconciliations of revenues collected from vehicle auction sales; and mismatches between the NYPD’s recording of revenue it received from the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Justice and documents it received from those agencies.

“The NYPD has a responsibility to the public to safeguard, track, properly dispose of, and account for all the property and revenue it receives on behalf of the City,” said Comptroller Stringer. “Our audit found that the NYPD’s system for tracking and accounting for property and revenue is inadequate — resulting in inaccuracies and gaps in its legally required public reports and the records that should support them.

“New Yorkers deserve to know that their Police Department is appropriately and accurately tracking seized property, the public revenue it generates, and the items that are supposed to be returned to their rightful owners when legal proceedings are resolved,” he added.

When the NYPD makes an arrest, any property seized is brought to the precinct, where an invoice for the property is created in PETS, the agency’s computerized system of record for inventorying and tracking the movement of property. 

The precincts then transfer the property to one of the Police Department’s borough offices, auto pounds, or warehouses, depending on the size and type of the property. 

The NYPD returns property that is not subject to forfeiture proceedings and can be legally returned to its rightful owner; destroys contraband, including weapons no longer needed for a criminal case; and disposes of unclaimed physical items, including jewelry and vehicles, through online public auctions.

The NYPD also deposits unclaimed cash and revenue derived from auctions into the city’s general fund. During the period the audit covered, the NYPD worked with two private companies that conduct auctions for the NYPD — PropertyRoom for general property and IAA for vehicles.

Comptroller Stringer’s audit found the following inadequacies regarding the NYPD’s management of seized property and related revenue:

  • The NYPD lacked adequate controls over the collection, recording, and reporting of seized property and related revenue.
  • Significant weaknesses affected the PETS system. Among other things, the NYPD could not use the system to track seized property centrally.
  • PETS lacked adequate data input controls, which affected the accuracy and usefulness of the records it contains and the reports it generates.
  • Unaccounted-for gaps in the invoice numbers PETS assigned could signify that transactions that should have been recorded were not or that transactions were inappropriately deleted.
  • As a result of the above-mentioned deficiencies and limitations, the NYPD could not efficiently and effectively determine whether the property that came into its custody was being properly maintained and disposed of.
  • The NYPD did not maintain adequate supporting documentation for the amounts it recorded in the City’s Financial Management System (FMS) as revenue received from the state’s District Attorneys’ Offices.
  • The audit also found that the cash receipts the NYPD recorded in FMS as revenue for Fiscal Years 2017, 2018, and 2019 did not match the supporting documentation for DOJ and Treasury receipts.
  • NYPD did not perform a timely reconciliation of the vehicle auction sales and did not bill its vendors on a timely basis for its share of the proceeds of auto auctions.

To address these findings, Comptroller Stringer recommended 16 measures to improve the NYPD’s collection, recording, and reporting of seized property and related revenue to help ensure full accountability for the proper disposition of all property and related revenue.

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