DATE crushes confiscated illegal liquor

Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agents Travis Dallam, left, and Jack Renaud toss confisicated alcohol onto a pile for destruction on Friday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agents Travis Dallam, left, and Jack Renaud toss confiscated alcohol onto a pile for destruction on Friday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

FELTON — So, how long does it take to destroy roughly $60,000 worth of booze?

About 25 minutes of tossing cans and bottles from a truck, followed by a bulldozer pulverizing the shattered contraband; that’s about $2,400 worth of alcohol per minute.

Five Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agents clearly had fun on Friday afternoon and who could blame them?

Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agent Jack Renaud heaves bottles of liquor to be crushed.

Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agent Jack Renaud heaves bottles of liquor to be crushed.

At least twice a year, sometimes more, DATE clears out its evidence room and disposes of what it can.

With court cases resolved there’s no need to keep the liquor gathered from investigations into illegal trafficking operations.

So, late last week evidence was loaded into a truck and taken to the Delaware Solid Waste Authority’s Sandtown landfill for destruction.

The agents arrived at 2:30 p.m. with the truck and a couple other dark-colored vehicles and wound their way on a trail to the dumping ground.

With the truck backed up to the discard spot, the agents began to toss cases of bottles and cans, beer, wine and hard liquor onto a growing pile.

Whether it was top shelf Jameson or affordable Coors Light, nothing was spared. The illegal New Amsterdam, Captain Morgan and Southern Comfort all had to go.

The DATE officers stopped short of whistling while they worked, but the serious tone of investigations and operations was replaced by the joviality of a successful job completed.

“It’s surreal to see that amount of alcohol get seized and then bring it out here and get destroyed after the efforts of someone [conducting a criminal enterprise],” Cpl. Aaron Bonniwell said.

Smell of booze

Before long, the unmistakable aroma of bourbon and whiskey wafted from the pile of shattered glass and crushed cans as a small stream of mixed drinks flowed before ponding up in the dirt and mud.

On cue, a DSWA bulldozer moved back and forth to crush the intoxicants, with sprays of foamy liquids shooting up far enough to hit observers who thought they were far enough out of the way.

After several runs over the booze, almost no trace of the contraband remained.

elaware Alcohol and  Tobacco Enforcement agent Don Bluestein sits in front of $60,000 worth of confiscated alcohol on Friday afternoon.

elaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement agent Don Bluestein sits in front of $60,000 worth of confiscated alcohol on Friday afternoon.

“Everything is pulverized so nobody can come over and help themselves to what’s left after we leave,” DATE Cpl. Don Bluestein said.

Typically, booze is confiscated from illegal local parties or New York City-based smugglers heading home with tax free merchandise while dreaming of higher re-sale profits. The Delaware State Police often take part in the detections and seizure, DATE said.

While last week’s haul to the dump might have typically covered six months of operations, an upward trend in illegal activity sped up the amount stored in the evidence room and need for quicker disposal.

“We have seen a big move toward illegal transportation of alcohol in Delaware because it’s just so profitable for black market sales,” DATE Deputy Director Rob Kracyla.

“While the buyers don’t pay tax on it here, they also avoid paying it in New York.”

Other criminal deeds

While illegal tobacco activity has been linked to funding terrorism, the misuse of alcohol hasn’t yet been connected, Deputy Director Kracyla said.

However, there’s collateral benefit to alcohol seizures in uncovering connected criminal activity, DATE said.

Whether it’s a handgun discovered during a raid or other illegal schemes uncovered, alcohol enforcement is tied to the criminal element.

While some of the confiscations came after organized law enforcement operations, others resulted from just plain paying attention to odd behavior.

“A lot of this comes from simple car stops, believe it or not,” Cpl. Bluestein said. “They tend do be over cautious and some of that gets noticed, like someone driving 25 miles per hour below the speed limit in one case.”

Last week, DATE made a public display of its liquor disposal in hope of dispelling any myth about what becomes of the confiscated evidence. No, Deputy Kracyla said, agents do not throw parties with the alcohol they recover from the crooks.

Following Department of Justice guidelines “the reality is there is a very strict procedure of evidence handling,” Kracyla said.

“From the minute it comes into our possession it’s tracked electronically and stored in a secured location. We have to maintain the rules of evidence as a case moves through the legal system and it’s a very regimented process.”

A bulldozer pulverizes a pile of confiscated liquor bottles and cans on Friday afternoon at the Central Solid Waste Management Center Sandtown landfill near Felton.

A bulldozer pulverizes a pile of confiscated liquor bottles and cans on Friday afternoon at the Central Solid Waste Management Center Sandtown landfill near Felton.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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