TITLE

Seized Drugs and Weapons: DEA Needs to Improve Certain Physical Safeguards and Strengthen Accountability: AIMD-00-17

PUB. DATE
November 1999
SOURCE
GAO Reports;11/30/1999, p1
SOURCE TYPE
Government Document
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
As part of its asset forfeiture operations, the Justice Department often seizes and stores evidence--including drugs and weapons--that is later used by federal prosecutors. In fiscal year 1998, the Justice Department's Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reported that its agents seized more than 275,000 kilograms of illegal drugs. Each of the four DEA laboratories and division offices GAO visited had physical safeguards in place that, if used effectively, could help control access to and use of drug and weapon evidence. However, GAO found instances of inadequate packaging of drug and weapon evidence and overcrowded drug vaults that could increase the risk of theft, misuse, and loss. Moreover, GAO found that some requirements, such as chemists' returning drug evidence to a vault within five working days after analysis and laboratories destroying drugs within 90 days of receiving authorization, were not always met. GAO also found weaknesses in DEA's accountability over drug and weapon evidence, including (1) incomplete and missing documentation, such as chain of custody documentation; (2) inaccurate recordkeeping of drug and weapon evidence; and (3) improper accounting for drug weights, including unverified and unexplained weight differences in drug exhibits. DEA's internal inspection teams also reported instances of missing documentation and improper recordkeeping in their reports covering inspections done from 1996 through 1998. In commenting on this report, DEA officials said that the problems GAO cited do not appear to be systemic in nature and affected areas in which redundant controls are in place to ensure the integrity of evidence at all times. GAO disagrees with DEA and identifies several even more severe issues plaguing all, or almost all, of the locations GAO visited and for which redundant controls did not exist to compensate for the deficiencies.
ACCESSION #
18225143

 

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