Florida Keys News
Monday, December 2, 2013
Sheriff's Office to auction off hundreds of big-ticket items

If your Christmas shopping list includes fishing gear, electronics or even a tricked-out Yamaha sport bike you might want to swing by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office this week.

The sheriff's office is holding a large silent auction of hundreds of items, including a wide array of forfeited and seized items as well as property the department no longer wants or needs -- including more than 10 Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars and used sport utility vehicles.

Ever wonder what happens to your pocketknife when it's taken by airport security? It's one of thousands of such knifes, corkscrews and other sharp objects that will be passing the auction block and available for viewing Tuesday and Thursday at sheriff's office headquarters on Stock Island.

There are spearguns, an ATV, tools of all kinds, electronics such as DVD players and flat-screen TVs, snorkel and dive gear, rod and reel combos, even boat GPS units up for grabs.

The department holds such an auction once a year or every other year depending on how much property it needs to unload, Sheriff Rick Ramsay said Wednesday as he perused some coin collections and bags of pocketknives in his office.

Most of the items are the remnants of court cases, many involving criminal drug activity, in which the courts grant title to the sheriff's office. Other items are simply never picked up by their owner and are sitting in the property division.

"Some of it isjust found property that no one ever claimed," Ramsay explained. "Other stuff is recovered during investigations and the owner can't be determined. We can't hold on to all this stuff for 20 years so we auction it off."

And that costs money. That's why the sheriff's office doesn't hold auctions very often, said spokeswoman Becky Herrin. She explained the profits are broken down three ways:

"Our property, like our old patrol vehicles, that money goes back to the Monroe County (government) general fund," Herrin said. "Proceeds from found property that's never claimed goes to the state school fund and forfeited property like from drug cases goes to the law enforcement trust fund."

Last year's auction raised $26,000 for the Monroe County general fund, Herrin said. Once the department pays for the cost to hold the auction, then the proceeds are doled out, but state law requires the money be held for a year just in case a rightful owner arrives to claim an item, Herrin said.

Part of the department's expense last year included paying a jeweler to examine two Rolex watches to make sure they were authentic.

"We want people to know they're getting the real thing," Ramsay said. "We want people to offer a good price for good items."

Sometimes the sheriff's office will keep guns seized in cases for use within the department if they meet specifications, but most are destroyed.

Most of the vehicles for auction had labels describing their ailments. One squad car said, "Parts car. Doesn't run."

"We're not trying to pull a fast one on anyone," Ramsay said as he walked around the secured vehicle area. "This isn't Rick Ramsay's Used Car Lot. I don't want people coming back to me upset."

Ramsay may not be running a used car lot, but he did display some promising salesmanship skills while showing some old electronic traffic radar signs that no longer work.

"Somebody with a cutting torch may want to turn this into a nice little trailer -- use your imagination," he said with a smile.

alinhardt@keynews.com

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