Equitable sharing revenues climbed steadily for the better part of the past two decades. Though they have begun to fall in recent years, revenues remain vast, and state and local law enforcement agencies continue to collect hundreds of millions of dollars through equitable sharing annually (see Figure 23). Federal equitable sharing payments peaked in 2013 at over $779 million before declining to $333.8 million in 2019. Payments totaled more than $8.8 billion from 2000 to 2019.1
Figure 23: DOJ and Treasury Equitable Sharing Payments to States, 2000–2019
Source: DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports.
While it is impossible to isolate a single cause of this trend, the Great Recession may have played a role. Tax revenues decline during a recession even as demand for social services increases, squeezing state and local governments.2 Although the recession officially ended in 2009,3 local governments only began to feel the effects in 2010,4 and it took until 2013–2014 for the U.S. economy to recover.5 Equitable sharing trends largely track with this timeline, and as the 2019 Kelly study suggests, agencies may have turned to equitable sharing during that time.6