Posts Tagged ‘frustrations

10
Dec
07

Bait and Switch?

A caveat before I begin: I’m thankful that the NYPD keeps me feeling safe in this city. No, seriously, I am. I don’t like all the hullabaloo with snipers and AK-47s outside of the Empire State Building, but in terms of my day-to-day activities, I feel relatively safe in New York City. And I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself.

But the latest shenanigans by the “Boys in Blue” has me a wee bit wary. NYPD has revamped a program where undercover cops leave decoy wallets, purses, and shopping bags in subway stations and stores (i.e. Macy’s) and arrest anyone who picks up the item and walks past a uniformed cop without returning it. The goal is to arrest hairy-eyed n’er-do-wells who are aiming to take off with some loot. But the result? More often than not it appears good samaritans are the ones most likely to suffer unwarranted (pardon the pun) police harassment. The common story seems to be that someone, no doubt a regular 9-5er rushing to catch their train, spots an abandoned item, scoops it up for further examination (i.e. to find an address or receipt to return to owner or store, respectively), hops on the train (without realizing a cop is nearby, after all they are a dime a dozen and we’ve become so sensitized to their presence), then gets hauled off the train, frisked, and asked about prior arrests.

The program, introduced over a year ago, was quickly discredited by judges and prosecutors alike for a number of reasons, mainly that a person has ten days to turn in lost items and, secondly, that nothing in the legalese requires a person to return an article to a uniformed police officer.

So, the cops reworked their program and recently reinstated it. Now the decoys are “laced” with actual credit cards issued under cops’ aliases. Pick that baby up and you could spend 4 years upstate.

Oh and this beast has a name: “Operation Lucky Bag.”

Now for my opinion: I find this simply abhorrent. I mean, seriously. There’s a lot more shit going down in Gotham that needs some attention above and beyond petty larceny. But aside from that, it seems simply ludicrous that police can “bait” innocent civilians into “performing” what they interpret to be a criminal offense. In fact, the ONLY thing that allows the cops to arrest someone is if they perceive that the person had no intention of returning the goods. And, you could argue that they are reducing subway crime with programs such as this. In fact, go ahead (they argue they reduced subway crime by 13% — but we’re all in hypotheticals here). But the numbers suggest otherwise. Although there were 101 arrests made in the original program by

people who had a combined number of 716 prior offenses, there were 119 arrests made of individuals with no prior record. And, if we are going to really debate the issue, every single one of them was perfectly innocent, regardless of their record, and would have remained so had the officer not placed the decoy where they would see it.

At its best it is like holding a shot of Jack in front of the alcoholic and carting them off to rehab for simply picking up the drink. At its worst it is ensnaring innocent everyday folks in a web of legal troubles that will no doubt effect their occupational, emotional, and interpersonal lives for years to come.

In the words of my not-so-favorite-but-highly-appropos-looney-tunes-character:

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