Some of nearly $1 million in cash confiscated in almost 4,500 drug busts and other Philadelphia crimes since 2005 will soon reach crime victims as long-due restitution.
The money, gathered also during search warrants executed by police officers, has been sitting in escrow in a city Police Department bank account.
But the department had no clear indication about to whom it should be directed because of poor record-keeping by the entity responsible for that task, the now-disbanded Clerk of Quarter Sessions Office.
In recent months, though, some of that information became available as the clerk's duties were absorbed into the city's court system.
Known officially as the First Judicial District, the court, under Common Pleas Court President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe, has performed audits and otherwise scrutinized the Clerk of Quarter Sessions' bookkeeping system - or lack of one.
"The clerk in the old days wasn't keeping good records," Dembe said.
Money confiscated from defendants is sometimes directed back to a defendant if he or she files a claim, but the bulk of it is not, said David Wasson, chief deputy court administrator for the First Judicial District.
He said the money - $948,969 - stems from 4,492 court cases.
But not every case involves restitution, he said, and it has yet to be determined how many people would receive some of those dollars.
"This shows the additional efforts the court is making to have defendants' balances paid down, and money sent to victims, as well as to the city and state for what they are owed in fines and costs," he said.
(Wasson said victims with inquiries, or who wish to update their addresses, may send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dembe on Dec. 23 signed a court order that allows the transfer of the nearly $1 million from the Police Department to the First Judicial District for eventual distribution in restitution, or to the city and state.
"And a large sum will go to keep the clerk's office running," Dembe added.
The 300-year-old clerk's office was formally abolished in October, but the court system had taken control of its duties in April.
The clerk's office was responsible for maintaining court records, staffing courtrooms, and collecting bail money and fines in criminal cases.