County Sheriff’s Office to hold auction

By Andy McMurray

Sheriff’s auctions conjure dreams of yachts for $500 or Ferraris for a few thousand dollars; the reality of the auctions is not quite as luxurious.

Under Illinois state law, habitual DUI offenders can have their cars seized and auctioned by police departments. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office will conduct its first public auction under the law Saturday.

Since June 2003, when local departments began to enforce the law, 124 vehicles have been seized in DeKalb county. Most never make it to auction because they are released to the lien holders.

The cars range from a 1985 Dodge van to a 1998 Ford Mustang. None of the cars are newer than 1998 and none are Ferraris. For those reasons, the money earned on the sale may be nominal.

The cars typically sell below market value, said Kevin Hickey, DeKalb County Sheriff’s police chief deputy. Not all autos are in prime condition either. Habitual DUI offenders are not known for their auto care skills.

Most of the money the sheriff’s department hopes to earn is already spent.

Local city departments see a portion of the funds if the department was involved in the initial seizure, Hickey said. Otherwise, the county receives the funds for any unpaid liens on the cars by money lenders.

While holding the cars, the county pays storage fees which total around $8,000, Hickey said. Much of the money will recoup those costs.

“What it comes down to is another unfunded mandate from the state of Illinois,” he said.

In both Sycamore and DeKalb, any money earned is put into the city’s general fund.

In DeKalb County, police said the law is advantageous and not because of money made from vehicle sales.

When the law first took effect in 2003, many saw it as a money- making opportunity, Sycamore Police Lt. Darrell Johnson said. As time went on, it became clear the law was beneficial for reasons other than money.

“They’re all worth forfeiting,” Johnson said. “The advantage to the law is getting the repetitive offenders off the street.”

DeKalb Police Lt. Dan Gerace agreed.

“They don’t bring in much money,” he said. “I don’t think the city is that concerned about it.”

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department is holding about 50 vehicles; 23 of those will be sold Saturday to the highest bidder with no guarantees or warranties.