Police impound auctions sell all kinds of items, including vehicles, bicycles, personal possessions, and even land or houses. Police acquire the items two different ways. First, some of the items are seized in drug arrests. Police can auction this property after someone has been convicted. Second, police can sell lost items after a legal waiting time has passed.
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Search your local police department's website for auction information. You will be able to find out the time and location of auctions and a list of items to be sold. The list is very general, and there are disclaimers about the quality of the merchandise. It is sold "as is," with no guarantees. Arrive early so you can inspect the items that you want to bid on. Small police departments generally auction lost items such as bicycles but not larger items such as automobiles.
Search your state police or highway patrol website. State police agencies make more arrests than most local municipalities, so they will have a greater variety of items up for auction. Regions have an effect on auction content. In Florida, for example, if a boat is seized as part of the drug trade, it will be sold at auction, but if you live in central Illinois, boat sales will be relatively rare.
Examine the websites of large cities in your region, which also have better auctions than smaller municipalities. Seized vehicles and even surplus municipal vehicles and equipment will be for sale. Generally, the larger the unit of government, the larger and better the auctions will be.
Sift through the online auction houses that do business with police departments. Often, a police department feels it doesn't have the expertise to run an auction, so it will hire an auction house to run the sale. For example, the City of Chicago has hired Ace Auctioneers. There should be no fee to attend an auction through websites such as this.
Investigate one of the numerous online auction information services. These companies will charge you a subscription fee, then send you lists of auctions from around the country. This could save you a substantial amount of research time, but you may be getting information that you could find yourself, if you are willing to do the research. Do a web search of a company's name along with the search terms "my experience with" to find reviews of their performance before you subscribe.
Visit Propertyroom.com, which collects items from hundreds of police departments nationwide and auctions the merchandise online. The website splits the profits with police, who use the money for pension funds.
Tips and warnings
- If you are a government employee, check your ethics policy to make sure that you are allowed to bid.