Last week the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office auctioned off dozens of vehicles it had seized during drug deals and other criminal investigations. Just more than $817,000 raised from that auction and others like it is sitting in a special trust fund to be used to fund law enforcement programs.
By state law, these funds must be used in crime-fighting efforts.
The Sheriff's Office plans to donate $223,000 to various groups, including:
$50,000 to Florida State College at Jacksonville
$30,000 to Guardian Catholic Schools
$25,000 to First Coast Crimestoppers
$25,000 to the Jacksonville Historic Navy Ship Association
$12,500 to Police Explorers
$10,000 to Campus Crusade for Christ
City Councilman John Crescimbeni is asking why so much of the money is given away and why it can't be used for other government-funded crime programs like the Jacksonville Journey.
"When I look at the agencies receiving monies without further investigation, superficially they don't look like crime-prevention agencies," Crescimbeni said.
For example, how does the Historic Navy Ship Association, which plans to bring the USS Adams downtown as a floating museum help prevent crime? The group says the money will be used to mentor kids in troubled neighborhoods.
"I think if you are giving kids hands-on things to think about -- vocations and science and other things that peaks their interest," said the association's Joe Snowberger. "It's better on the ship they are playing with these things than off doing other things unsupervised."
FSCJ says the money it receives will go to a program for at-risk students to gear them toward the law enforcement academy.
Crescimbeni says that's good, but wonders why a citywide crime fighting program like Jacksonville Journey was turned down. Funding for Journey funding was cut by the city last year.
"When I see $800,000 sitting over here, in my mind which could be used for that. I am wondering why we don't use some of that for Jacksonville Journey?" Crescimbeni said.
Late Thursday, Sheriff John Rutherford issued the following statement:
"Recently the City Council approved (unanimously) Ordinance 2014-009; providing for the distribution of $223,000 in funding to 11 deserving nonprofit organizations that are helping our at-risk youth and adults. These funds are not taxpayer dollars, but monies from drug dealers and seized property that has been sold.
"These monies are collected and distributed in complete accordance with both Florida Statute and City Ordinance. As a matter of fact, the Statute mandates that at least 15% of these monies MUST be utilized for prevention and intervention programs in the community.
"This latest round of grants (which includes NO taxpayer money) meets that statutory requirement of helping to fund programs that address crime prevention and intervention of targeted at-risk youth and adults. There is no better way to spend a doper’s money than repairing the damage they have caused in our community."