The Warren County Courthouse will temporarily be turned into a used-car lot Thursday, all in the name of fighting the spread of illegal drugs.

Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving and South Central Kentucky Drug Task Force Director Jacky Hunt have teamed up on a surplus property auction in which nine of the 17 vehicles for sale were forfeited because of their use in illegal drug activity.

“State law is very clear,” said Loving. “If you’re using a vehicle to traffic drugs, it’s subject to forfeiture.”

And those forfeitures, while making it harder for the owners to continue drug trafficking, have the added benefit of boosting the budgets of the drug task forces.

“When we sell the forfeited vehicles, we reinvest the money back into drug enforcement,” said Hunt. “We take the proceeds from the sale of drug dealers’ vehicles and use it against them, and it doesn’t cost the taxpayers any money.”

The first surplus vehicle auction held by the drug task forces in two years, this one will include 13 vehicles from Warren County and four from the South Central task force that serves Logan and Simpson counties.

Federal and state forfeiture laws have drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and others who claim the laws are being used by law enforcement agencies to benefit their bottom lines.

But Loving and Hunt don’t see it that way.

“Literally, the way we have to spend this money means that it goes right back to the business of fighting drugs,” Hunt said.

Loving said his task force operates on a $290,000 annual budget, with funding from the city of Bowling Green, Warren Fiscal Court, the federal Office of National Drug Control and a grant from the federal Office of Justice Assistance. The proceeds from the auction of seized vehicles help the task force stretch its budget, he said.

Warren County’s drug task force receives 85 percent of the funds from the sale of seized vehicles, with the remaining 15 percent going to the office of the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“Drug dealers don’t pay taxes,” Loving said, “so when we take their vehicles it benefits the taxpayers.”

Among the seized vehicles for sale Thursday are a 2011 Cadillac, a 2010 Dodge Challenger and a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.

“There are some really nice vehicles and some that would be good starter cars for a 16-year-old,” Hunt said. “There’s usually a good variety.”

Some newer vehicles that the task forces purchased through a discounted state contract will be part of the auction as well. Among them are a 2018 Ford Escape and a 2017 Ford Explorer.

“We purchase them at 30 to 35 percent off the normal sticker price,” Loving explained. “We plan to keep them two or three years and then sell them and recover much of what we spent. It’s cheaper than leasing.”

Loving said the auction will start at 1 p.m. Thursday, but he said potential buyers can come earlier in the day to check out the cars and trucks.

“We’ll start putting them out at 8 a.m.,” Loving said. “They’ll be up on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse and on the street.”

Local auctioneer Joe Houchens will conduct the auction at no charge, Loving said.

“It’s a nice service he does for the community,” Loving said of Houchens.

– More information about the auction, including photos of the vehicles, can be found at the jbhauctioneers.com website.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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