Since 2008, thousands of police agencies in every state in the country have seized a total of $3 billion in cash and property under a federal law designed to thwart drug organizations. Along the way, motorists and others charged with no crimes have forfeited cars, cash, homes and even businesses while these assets are absorbed into local and state law-enforcement budgets.

Now the U.S. government is finally putting an end to the Equitable Sharing Program. Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement doesn’t go far enough in addressing the unjustified seizure of personal property, but it’s a good start toward preventing further harm to people who’ve done nothing wrong.

Created under a 1984 law, Equitable Sharing allows state and local police to take personal property – without warrants, indictments or even criminal charges – turn it over to the federal government, and then get the lion’s share of the proceeds back.

In criminal cases, the government is allowed to seize property only if the owner has been convicted of a crime. The bar is lower in Equitable Sharing and other civil cases, though: The property itself is presumed to be tied to criminal activity, and the owner can’t get it back without proving it was acquired and used legally.

Relatively few people whose property is seized challenge the confiscation, in part because of the cost and time of taking legal action against the government. In 41 percent of cases where there is a challenge, however, people get all or some of their money back.

Such victories don’t make up for the damage already done, The Washington Post found in its 2014 investigation into the toll of Equitable Sharing on innocent property owners. In 2013, for example, Mandrel Stuart got back the $17,550 in cash that Fairfax County, Virginia, police had taken the year before, when he was stopped for a minor infraction, detained without charges, stripped and handcuffed. But while fighting the government, Stuart – who had planned to use the money to equip and supply his barbecue restaurant – lost his business for lack of working capital.

The proceeds of asset seizures have become a regular source of funding for hundreds of police agencies nationwide. They’ve used the money to buy everything from guns and armored vehicles to travel and luxury cars, setting spending priorities without the needed input and oversight of elected officials.

But while allowing seizure proceeds to be shared between local or state police and federal agencies has caused confiscations to soar, it doesn’t seem to have netted many actual criminals. Of the nearly $2.5 billion in Equitable Sharing spending reported by state and local police since 2008, “81 percent came from cash and property seizures in which no indictment was filed,” noted the Post.

The suspension of Equitable Sharing won’t end the problems with civil asset forfeiture. Federal authorities – or local and state officers deputized into federal agents – will still be allowed to seize and keep assets in their own investigations, without having to show evidence of criminal wrongdoing. And the changes don’t affect state laws that funnel seized property to police agencies – unlike Maine, where the proceeds go to the state’s General Fund.

Holder’s announcement is a promising first step, however, and Congress should follow up by eliminating the federal loopholes. The duty of law enforcement is to act in the interest of protecting public safety, but when members of the public are being deprived of their property without due process, that mission is not being fulfilled.