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Entrapping a Good Samaritan or Two
November 28, 2007 7:39 AM   Subscribe

If you see an unattended bag in New York this holiday shopping season, you better just leave it alone. If you pick it up and don't immediately report it, it could net you a class E felony. The NYPD is planting the bags themselves and this isn't the first time. Operation Lucky Bag first started in 2006, but now they're intentionally loading the bags with credit cards to increase the crime (or non-crime) from a misdemeanor to a felony.
posted by yeti (111 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Commenting in this thread may also be a felony. Be forewarned!
posted by KokuRyu at 7:43 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wait and this isn't entrapment?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:44 AM on November 28, 2007


It can't be entrapment because the officers never spoke to the accused. Entrapment requires a bit more than just leaving valuables in public places. Not to say this sounds like it's being done well. As one judge pointed out, the law gives you 10 days to turn stuff in. More than anything, it just seems like a massive waste of money and time. I wonder how many actual muggings take place during these stings, where the officers sitting around watching a bag could have been walking the streets in uniform, instead.
posted by nomisxid at 7:49 AM on November 28, 2007


This seems like a colossal waste of everyone's time.
posted by hermitosis at 7:49 AM on November 28, 2007


I thought we were supposed to call 911 and the FBI and the bomb squad if we saw an unattended bag in New York. QUIT CHANGING THE RULES.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:51 AM on November 28, 2007 [17 favorites]


"In dismissing one case, a Brooklyn judge noted that the law gives people 10 days to turn in property they find..."

The police were so busy enforcing the law that they didn't look at it too carefully.

The end of the article at least points out that only the most suspicious cases are now being pursued, but it still seems to me like a bunch of cops who grew bored standing around waiting for crime to happen and decided to incite some. They're using the same tactic to round up petty thieves as they would to hunt pedophiles on the internet.
posted by hermitosis at 7:53 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Revenue-enhancement with a "keeping the public safe from the terrorists" spin.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:53 AM on November 28, 2007


I recall an episode of COPS years ago where a unlocked bicycle was left/planted outside a supermarket and then monitored by a crack team of undecover cops. Without fail someone would see the chance to score a bike, jump on it, and then be surrounded by the fuzz.

It seemed like an awful lot of police time and effort to cause and then prevent bicycle theft.
posted by Paid In Full at 7:56 AM on November 28, 2007


So there's so little crime in New York that the police have to go out and cause more? Are the bored?
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 AM on November 28, 2007


A New York jury would never convict anyone of these stupid charges. What a waste of time and resources.
posted by brain_drain at 7:59 AM on November 28, 2007


Totally dumb way to scare people out of doing the right thing. I know I'll be thinking twice before picking up a lost object.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:01 AM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


They arrested anyone who took the items and walked past a police officer in uniform without reporting the discovery.

See, that's a big problem right there - if I find a bag, my instinct is going to be to head to the lost and found, not the nearest cop. This stinks. If I'm ever in New York, I'm not doing anything with an unattended bag.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:04 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fuckers.
posted by Mister_A at 8:07 AM on November 28, 2007


Your civic duty is to call in a bomb threat each and every time you see one of these bags.
posted by interrobang at 8:08 AM on November 28, 2007 [7 favorites]


Also, the NYPD will be placing large bags overflowing with candy around various schoolhouses, each containing a bear trap.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:11 AM on November 28, 2007 [25 favorites]


I recall an episode of COPS years ago where a unlocked bicycle was left/planted outside a supermarket and then monitored by a crack team of undecover cops. Without fail someone would see the chance to score a bike, jump on it, and then be surrounded by the fuzz.

It seemed like an awful lot of police time and effort to cause and then prevent bicycle theft.


Thats, like, porn for bicyclists. I'd rather watch bike thieves get nailed than Utah troopers randomly tasing motorists.
posted by mecran01 at 8:11 AM on November 28, 2007 [5 favorites]


This has got me so scared I'm not even going to help a lost child. You're on your own, kid; I don't want to be accused of kidnapping.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:11 AM on November 28, 2007


Paid in Full, I remember watching a similar episode of COPS, only they put the bike in the trunk of a car (held down with bungee cords). They used a very expensive bicycle as bait, so as to get the biggest possible felony charge.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:13 AM on November 28, 2007


only the most suspicious cases are now being pursued

translation: rich white guys in suits let off with a warning. Black guys with baggy pants...

Me thinks they are using this as an excuse to stop and frisk "suspicious individuals"
posted by any major dude at 8:14 AM on November 28, 2007 [5 favorites]


This has got me so scared I'm not even going to help a lost child. You're on your own, kid; I don't want to be accused of kidnapping.

Also WHAT IF THAT LOST CHILD IS REALLY A BOMB
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:14 AM on November 28, 2007 [17 favorites]


In years past, that unattended bag may have been Leona Helmsley, who you would certainly want to turn over to the cops.
posted by Mister_A at 8:23 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


And they wonder why people hate cops.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2007


Me thinks they are using this as an excuse to stop and frisk "suspicious individuals"

They haven't needed an excuse for a long time, although that may change.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:30 AM on November 28, 2007


This has got me so scared I'm not even going to help a lost child. You're on your own, kid; I don't want to be accused of kidnapping.

Something like this actually happened in England a few years back. There was an infamous kidnapping/murder case where a child was wandering alone (or with the kidnapper, I forget) and an adult noticed that something wasn't right. The adult decided not to intervene for fear of being branded a molester or a kidnapper himself.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:32 AM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh jeez, never mind...that study was old too. And the most recent studies aren't encouraging.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:33 AM on November 28, 2007


I'd rather watch bike thieves get nailed than Utah troopers randomly tasing motorists.

I originally read this as "randomly tasting motorists," and I thought "Man, I'm never going to Utah if I can help it!"
posted by languagehat at 8:33 AM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, this is stupid and evil cop behavior.
posted by languagehat at 8:34 AM on November 28, 2007


So I'm really not getting how this isn't entrapment. They're creating the opportunity for the crime; no crime would have been committed without the cops leaving the bags out there.

I mean.. I ask some guy if he's got some 'stuff', he says yes, I try to buy--he arrests me. Okay. But if he comes to me and says he's got stuff, do I want some? That's entrapment, no? Same deal here.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:36 AM on November 28, 2007


If they would just put a piece of ordnance fuse in the bags, then they could have a sniper shoot you in the head.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:36 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, thanks for the warning.

I return stuff to people all the time -- I also get my stuff returned all the time -- guess the police have firmly put a stop to *that*.

Frankly, I'd trust a random individual to get my wallet back to me over the police department any time.

I hate these people. They're supposed to work for us! How do we stop this?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:37 AM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


How about placing a box of donuts with a bonus pipe bomb rigged to the lid at random police stations around the country. Put a "Do Not Eat -- This delicious box of cream- and jelly-filled donuts does not belong to you." sign on it so they *know* they're not supposed to open it.

Call it a citizen's way of weeding out "bad cops".
posted by LordSludge at 8:37 AM on November 28, 2007 [6 favorites]


It seems like police are excessively enamored with these no-real-victim crime baits these days (see also internet sex stings; Dateline). I suspect it's because they're easy to control, and give quick, easy results -- unlike the messy real world problem of having to solve crimes the police don't actually witness. But creating "criminals" where there are no victims is, at best, a waste of police resources that (as others have noted) should be spent solving real unsolved crimes.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:38 AM on November 28, 2007


I usually ignore unattended bags, unless there's a conveniently-placed cop in which case I'll point it out. Maybe I'd call 311 if there was something really odd about it (ticking, oozing, covered in American flags with "NOT A BOMB" in big red-white-and-blue stenciled letters, resembles a lite-brite, etc). But I sure as hell wouldn't pick it up.
posted by Skorgu at 8:38 AM on November 28, 2007


Great PR for the NYPD, especially on the heels of a slew of shootings of unarmed men and children. One kid they shot dead in a hail of bullets was brandishing a lethal hair brush.

Asswipes.
posted by wfc123 at 8:44 AM on November 28, 2007


I counter this by citizen's arresting every cop I see in New York.

"Alright pal, you're pinched, I'm charging you with having a ludicrous mustache, also that tie is a clip-on and I fucking hate that you wear those tactical cargo pants, but you have a normal collared cop shirt on, did you get dressed in the dark? Come along quietly or you are going to get a dickens of a tasering."

Then I make them sit in my back yard and scrape up bird shit with a rusty trowel until they apologize.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:49 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


nomisxid: It can't be entrapment because the officers never spoke to the accused.

What exactly in the definition of entrapment leads you to believe that a police officer must speak to you for you to be entrapped?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:50 AM on November 28, 2007


One kid they shot dead in a hail of bullets was brandishing a lethal hair brush.

I don't think you can fault the cops if the kid had a lethal hair brush.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:51 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


I originally read this as "randomly tasting motorists," and I thought "Man, I'm never going to Utah if I can help it!"

Fixed that for you me.
posted by hermitosis at 8:52 AM on November 28, 2007


Once, when I lived in DC, I found a bag on the Metro - it was a shopping bag that had a couple of new shirts in it, and a few other things I no longer remember. I picked it up and got off at the next stop, where I saw two cops (regular city cops, not Metro cops) standing on the platform. I went up and told them about finding the bag, and should I report it to them, etc. (This was all long before Sept. 11, btw.) They looked at me like I was nuts - like, why the hell would I bother the police with that? - and told me to hand it in at the Metro booth upstairs. Which I did.

I think every person in NYC should report every found object they come across to the police - I mean, who knows what might be valuable, you know?

"Officer, I found this half-empty can of Coke - it might belong to someone!"

"Officer, I found a filthy ripped backpack with two mismatched sneakers, a torn-up magazine, and an old syringe in it - it might belong to someone!"
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on November 28, 2007 [20 favorites]


I recall an episode of COPS years ago where a unlocked bicycle was left/planted outside a supermarket and then monitored by a crack team of undecover cops.

Seems like a useful and effective tactic for bikes and cars. Those are things that are common targets for theft. Can't imagine why they'd want to do this with unattended bags though. Is there some massive unattended bag theft problem in NYC?
posted by sfenders at 9:00 AM on November 28, 2007


Usually you can detect the seed of a decent idea in these screw ups.

But this collides head on with the public safety posters about abandoned packages in stations everywhere here (commuting distance to NYC):

"If you see something, say something!" - plus the horribly worded follow-up posters "X people who saw something last year, said something" (or something like that!)- which drive me mental every time I spot them.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:01 AM on November 28, 2007


"I originally read this as 'randomly tasting motorists'..."

This is actually how the Utah Highway Patrol operates. It's much more of a deterrent than a speeding ticket.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:03 AM on November 28, 2007


I originally read this as "randomly tasting motorists," and I thought "Man, I'm never going to Utah if I can help it!"

Run! Get out of Utah NOW! The book of Mormon - it's a cook book!
posted by fleetmouse at 9:05 AM on November 28, 2007 [20 favorites]


That's why I always keep a can of Mountain Dew attached to a chain around my neck.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:18 AM on November 28, 2007


I'm waiting for an exasperated judge to rip a DA and a cop a new set of apertures over one of these arrests.
posted by pax digita at 9:21 AM on November 28, 2007


If they would just put a piece of ordnance fuse in the bags, then they could have a sniper shoot you in the head.

They actually Do that in Iraq.
posted by delmoi at 9:27 AM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


In my world, if you leave something unlocked, it's free for grabs. Considering curbside garbage service in New York, that goes without saying.
posted by iamck at 9:43 AM on November 28, 2007


What a great way to deter decent people from exercising honest tendencies.
posted by inconsequentialist at 9:45 AM on November 28, 2007


If I were to find a wallet/bag/etc., and occasionally I have, the police station is the last place I'd take it. Who knows whether it would ever get back to its owner, rather than taken home by the cop or just dumped in the trash.

Yet another reason why, in this political climate, I'm less a citizen than a felon-to-be.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2007


I have returned lots of lost things, and I have never even thought to take them to the police. If there's a central lost and found where I find it, like malls, stores, mass transit depots, I take it there, because the first place people look for lost things is where they have been recently. I know I have never called the police when I misplaced something while out and about. If it's outdoors or somewhere else there's nowhere to leave it, I take it home and track down the person myself. I thought this was pretty much standard practice.

Besides, I thought we were all supposed to lose our minds and freak out when we see unattended bags these days, and I agree, is there so little actual crime they have to go out and make some?
posted by Orb at 9:56 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]



"Alright pal, you're pinched, I'm charging you with having a ludicrous mustache, also that tie is a clip-on and I fucking hate that you wear those tactical cargo pants, but you have a normal collared cop shirt on, did you get dressed in the dark? Come along quietly or you are going to get a dickens of a tasering."



Be careful, fashion policing can get you in trouble too. In fact years ago, while waiting for my mother under the clock at D.H. Holmes department store, I had a fashion related run in with the law.

I was just minding my business, studying the crowd for bad taste in dress. When out of nowhere a police officer plucked at my bag of sheet music and attempted to arrest me. Luckily, a crowd formed and during the ensuing chaos and mother and I were able to escape down Canal Street.
posted by remo at 10:08 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Is it me, or is this operation almost Seinfeld-esque?
posted by scblackman at 10:11 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


edit:

Luckily, a crowd formed and during the ensuing chaos and mother and I were able to escape down Canal Street.

Luckily, a crowd formed and during the ensuing chaos, mother and I were able to escape down Canal Street.
posted by remo at 10:11 AM on November 28, 2007


This would never work in Boston.
posted by Sailormom at 10:13 AM on November 28, 2007


Hey - at least they aren't leaving out bits of wire and circuit boards and garage door openers and shooting folks when they go to pick them up. Not yet anyways...
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:19 AM on November 28, 2007


OK, I don't like the bags, but I love the bike idea.
It has to be large scale though. The point is to act as a probabilistic deterrent. I mean, I can't explain how much I hate bike thieves. I bike commuted when I didn't have enough money to fix my car & someone stole my bike. I mean that really sucked. Thieves suck. I sort of like when we killed thieves. Not for stealing bread to feed your children (though maybe it'd be different if I were a bread maker, uh baker) but for stealing people's horses, cars, bikes... their livelihoods.

I've often wondered whether just buying thousands of those lojack dealies and giving them away by lottery would be an effective way of reducing car theft. But then again I always loved probabilistic algorithms.

There's no way this is entrapment. Opportunity does not equal encouragement. Take responsibility for your own actions. If you steal, you're a thief.
posted by Wood at 10:19 AM on November 28, 2007


I should really read the rest of the comments before I snark.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:20 AM on November 28, 2007


Metafilter: I should really read the rest of the comments before I snark
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:27 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Bait is such a great idea. It must suck to be a fish. Thousands of years ago you could just eat everything mindlessly like a cow. Now you have to go around scrutininizing each worm or other tempting tidbit. Go us!
posted by Wood at 10:30 AM on November 28, 2007


Be careful, fashion policing can get you in trouble too. In fact years ago, while waiting for my mother under the clock at D.H. Holmes department store, I had a fashion related run in with the law.

Fortuna's wheel really spun against you there, huh? I can only imagine the damage done to your valve.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:36 AM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Do you remember that collie of yours?
posted by pax digita at 10:44 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


How about a little reverse entrapment? Report or plant a bag with full identification and a few valuables into the so-called lost and found. See if you ever get a call to pick it up or get it mailed back to you fully intact. If not, check with the lost-and-found a week later and see if it is still there.
posted by CG at 10:52 AM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of this story where a Canadian couple found a camera in Hawaii, and decided to keep it.
posted by delmoi at 11:03 AM on November 28, 2007


Fortuna's wheel really spun against you there, huh? I can only imagine the damage done to your valve.

Yes, that Fortuna is a blind, heedless goddess. My valve was starting to recover until pax digita made mention of my departed collie Rex. Now, for all I know, my valve may be permanently shut.

Now if you don't mind, I need to go to bed and lay on my side for awhile.
posted by remo at 11:35 AM on November 28, 2007


I remember having boths hands full of bags while shopping in Tokyo a few years ago. The store we were going into was pretty crowded, so my friend says to me "Leave them by the door"

You mean right here on the sidewalk? I've got 800 bucks worth of brightly colored overpriced t-shirts in this bag.

He insisted that it was ok, so I warily trusted him. 30 minutes later, we came out, and the bags were right where I left them. Even more fantastical, you don't have to lock up your bike. If it's overnight and it'a a REALLY nice bike, maybe, but I remember walking down a street late at night after drinking wayyyy to much, and wondering why we couldn't just take one of the hundreds of bikes sitting there unlocked and unwatched on the sidewalk.

"If they didn't want me to ride their bike, they'd lock it up! I'll bring it back in the morning, I swear!"

My friend just shook his head, and I walked home that night. Stumbly, b ut enlightened as to the true potential of human nature.

If this really was the end result of the NYPD's efforts, then maybe it's a good idea with a poor execution. I think "civility" crimes should be handled, well....civilly. Set the trap, but there's no need for arrest. Just a reminder that there's a right thing, and a wrong thing to do. If someone picked up a bag, and was approached by an officer explaining that calling 311 or turning a bag over to a police officer was a good way of getting it back to it's rightful owner, and then politely thanked for handing over the bag, maybe it would be the start of thinking differently about these things...If not, then we go to plan B.

We have a plan B?

Oh yeah...It rhymes with Tublic Pasering.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:46 AM on November 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


lupus, it's that word "induce". It doesn't mean, "create an opportunity", it means "actively encourage". I suppose the active encouragement could have been written, sure, but it still requires interaction with an officer.
posted by nomisxid at 1:42 PM on November 28, 2007


How about if they walk past a uniformed officer without attempting to turn in the decoy bag, they get tasered? Just in keeping with one of the day's themes.
posted by nax at 1:55 PM on November 28, 2007


They were doing this in my hometown with 2-4's of beer and a supposedly passed out owner on a park bench.

Of course, this was in Canada, so the cops used the goods most likely to swing the public mood toward capital punishment.
posted by dreamsign at 2:18 PM on November 28, 2007


There is absolutely no way this is a better use of funds and manpower than uniformed foot or bike patrols through neighborhoods.

No way. In a million years.

I agree with the person upthread that said every one of those bags should be reported to Department of Homeland Security as a possible terrorist bomb.

I bet the NYPD's little experiment would end rather abruptly.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:39 PM on November 28, 2007


Is there some massive unattended bag theft problem in NYC?

Yes. If you leave your bag unattended, it will be stolen. Because it's fucking New York.

Or else, someone will tell the cops, who may or may not run around with semi automatics and call out the bomb robots to detonate your bag of fake Chinatown NYPD-logo teddy bears. One of the two.
posted by emjaybee at 2:41 PM on November 28, 2007


They were doing this in my hometown with 2-4's of beer and a supposedly passed out owner on a park bench.

What's a 2-4 of beer? (Serious question)

Is that what Canadians call a 6-pack? A 2 and 4? Or something?
posted by Ynoxas at 2:43 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd guess 24 ounce. Like a 40.
posted by delmoi at 2:51 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


no, a 2-4 is a 24-pack of beer, cans or bottles (but almost always bottles).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:54 PM on November 28, 2007


But, a 26er is a 26-oz bottle of liquor. Just to keep things clear.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:55 PM on November 28, 2007


And a 22 is either a gun or a Ballantine.
posted by yeti at 3:02 PM on November 28, 2007


Sounds like a but-4.
What's a but-4?
To poop with!
posted by nomisxid at 3:10 PM on November 28, 2007


Sounds like a but-4.
What's a but-4?
To poop with!
posted by nomisxid at 5:10 PM on November 28


What's a henway?
posted by Ynoxas at 3:15 PM on November 28, 2007


A while back there was a ‘candid camera’ style show from Turkey where they’d walk up to some unsuspecting guy in an airport, drop a briefcase in front of him, and run.
This was back during the previous terrorism crest (pre-9/11) when bombs were going off in airports and planes were getting hijacked (the “take this plane to cuba” jokes were in vogue).
Show didn’t last long.
This empty bag thing isn’t funny at all tho.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:18 PM on November 28, 2007


Thank you, Ynoxas and delmoi, for making every Canadian reading this thread fall over laughing.
posted by tehloki at 3:55 PM on November 28, 2007


God's Children was in the Bike Film Fest a few years back. According to the 'Tube, it "[d]ocuments a right-wing vigilante bike gang based out of Prescott, Arizona that baits bicycles in order to catch bike thieves." Seems like a bunch of over-entitled shitheads, to me, but I could be wrong. It apparently got plenty of applause when it was shown to theaters full of bike enthusiasts.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:59 PM on November 28, 2007


This is great. Let me say, that all kinds of people will attempt to steal your stuff right from under your nose.

A few weeks ago I had to load about 20 20 pound bags of ice into my car. Of course I was shopping at Safeway, and they have those carts that lock up when you bring them out of the store.

I asked the girl if it was OK to just take it half a block away and then return it and she gave me that patented "mzuh?" you get at Safeway.

Focking thing locked up on me and I had to carry the bags of ice to the car. I also had one bag with a pint of whipping cream and some Sudafed in the cart.

As I returned to the cart to ferry my 4th load to the car, this professionally dressed woman in her 50s was plucking the bag with the cream and Sudafed out of the cart. I bellowed "HEY WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING WITH MY GROCERIES" and she turns to me and spits with venom: "If you leave things on the street somebody will take them." And I said, "Yeah, criminals like yourself."

So I am in favor of this sting. I imagine they'll mostly get the kind of envenomed soccer moms that were attempting to rob me. And Mexicans (ducks).
posted by Sukiari at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2007


But Sukiari, here's the thing.. this isn't a sting. This is creating crime. If the bags weren't there, they wouldn't get stolen.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:35 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm only okay with this if they record what happens to all the parcels and then put it on NBC this spring in the Heroes timeslot. It'd make a great reality show. Call it "Blatantly Legal Entrapment." It'd be the next best thing since Fear Factor. Viva the War On Terror! I'm more desensitized to fear than ever in the history of anything. Yay me go me.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:37 PM on November 28, 2007


"This is creating crime. If the bags weren't there, they wouldn't get stolen."

I don't really agree. Are you saying that people don't lose things, and that other folks don't abscond with them? I think that most people aren't thieves by nature, and the ones that are would steal a dummy bag as readily as they would steal somebody's personal belongings.

The snatch in the story I related above claimed that "If you leave things on the street then people will take them." I asked her if she thought it'd be OK to steal a car because it was left on the street.
posted by Sukiari at 6:04 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


"This is creating crime. If the bags weren't there, they wouldn't get stolen."

I don't really agree. Are you saying that people don't lose things, and that other folks don't abscond with them?


This is theoretical tipping point for entrapment. Are they catching people who would take advantage of the next (unchoreographed) opportunity to steal, or are they engaging in "random virtue testing"?

And second the typical experience in Japan. You can leave stuff almost anywhere. I don't know why it doesn't get stolen, but it does not. I'm guessing it has nothing to do with police planting stuff on the street.
posted by dreamsign at 6:49 PM on November 28, 2007


the snatch? This means someone who snatches?

NYC is a city where when you move, you have to have an extra friend who's job is to watch the truck. My friend was moving into her apartment using the time-honored "one person unloads the truck onto the sidewalk, one person moves stuff into the building, one person hefts stuff up the stairs" process. But what really went down was truck person places lamp on sidewalk, takes eye off lamp for brief second, random passerby picks up lamp and keeps walking.

Part of the fun of living in NY is the myriad ways you have of getting ripped off. I personally like dangling my ipod dangerously close to the subway doors, hoping someone will reach for it right before the doors close... so I can steal their watch.

If the cops wanted they could have a different sting every day and never repeat themselves. This sting is just laziness on their part.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:50 PM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


NYC sounds only marginally better than living in a prison, in hell.
posted by Sukiari at 8:06 PM on November 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't really agree. Are you saying that people don't lose things, and that other folks don't abscond with them? I think that most people aren't thieves by nature, and the ones that are would steal a dummy bag as readily as they would steal somebody's personal belongings.

Strawman much? Of course people steal things. But this exercise by the cops isn't actually useful. This is nabbing the particular people who could not have stolen the bag if the bag weren't there. Sure, see an unattended bag on the subway? Cop should keep an eye on it; if someone tries to steal it then clap him in irons, I say.

But this 'crime' is directly caused by the police. You can't arrest people by using the argument "well he probably would have maybe done it if it were real, so we should lock him up!"
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:00 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


NYC sounds only marginally better than living in a prison, in hell.

You know, it's the strangest damn thing. To those of us who don't live there, it does sound like that. But when you go...it's not nearly the existential, shadow filled, crime ridden, hell hole you might think. (Well, parts of it are...but ya know, that's true of any major urban center.)

New York has so much amazing stuff. The architecture, the museums, the libraries, the art and music and theatre, the shopping...oh, the shopping... It's an amazing place.

That said, I couldn't imagine trying to live there. I'm exhausted after a week.

I can't believe the NYC cops are so bored that they need this sort of diversion during the holiday season. I mean, aren't people getting shot somewhere? Muggings gone awry? Cars being stolen, wives being beaten, husbands being sold into white slavery? Surely there's more to do in Manhattan than try to entrap finders-keepers people.
posted by dejah420 at 9:07 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Around 25 years ago they tried something like dreamsign's passed out sting in San Francisco. They would pretend a guy was passed out on the street and then arrest the guy who went for his wallet.

Thing is, this was before cell phones. You had to go somewhere else to call emergency, and the wallet could have useful information to give the dispatcher. After the press figured out that a few obvious good samaritans where among the people arrested, the whole program came to a halt.

If things are really as bad as people are saying in NYC, then this sounds not only okay, but necessary. It should be going on all over the city: purses, people pretending to move into houses, etc. The whole "Do the crime, do the time" message needs to be imprinted in every low-life's brain.

Heck I could probably leave a big screen TV on the sidewalk in my neighborhood for a while without fear of someone walking off with it. The whole point of law enforcement is that people need to that think there are consequences for stealing. There must not be in NYC if it is as bad as people are saying.

But they have to be absolutely sure no one is picking up the purse to report it stolen, or you are back to what happened in San Francisco.
posted by eye of newt at 10:01 PM on November 28, 2007


I meant 'report it found', not 'report it stolen'.
posted by eye of newt at 10:03 PM on November 28, 2007


The biggest problem I have with this is that it is a COLLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME. Unless crime is like some sort of mineral that must be perpetually harvested to keep society able to build zergs or something, there's no reason to take a cop away from his duty preventing crimes, having him cause minor ones and apprehend the perpetrators.
posted by tehloki at 1:03 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow I agree with half of the posters here.... This is a waste of time. Seriously shouldn't they be you know stopping crime instead of trying to create it?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:21 AM on November 29, 2007


"random virtue testing"?

Man, dreamsign. When they start instituting that, there are gonna be a whole lot of Republicans in troub-bllllle.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:31 AM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sweet! Credit cards! I don't know who this "John Q Public" guy is, but, man, is he gonna be surprised when he sees how many pairs of shoes I can buy on his cards in one afternoon.
posted by myrrh at 12:07 PM on November 29, 2007


But this 'crime' is directly caused by the police. You can't arrest people by using the argument "well he probably would have maybe done it if it were real, so we should lock him up!"

But...we know he would have done it, without any prompting. It's not like an undercover guy is sidiling up to a random dude and inciting them to take the bag, it's just a bag sitting out, that the person knows dosen't belong to them, and taking it anyway. Yes, if that particualr bag wasn't there, they wouldn't take it, but it was there, so they did. The person picking up the bag (barring good samaritans) is willfully taking something that dosen't belong to them with no outside incitement or encouragement. It's only entrapment if the person was otherwise unwilling to do the crime, and the police somehow coereced or convinced the person to do so.

(dnab, I just realized that you're in Canada, and yes, in Canada this may be considered entrapment, though I think the unsolicited nature of the sting (no communication) and the areas where the police set up (stores and resturaunts) would prevent fulfillment, as dreamsign suggests, of "Random Virtue Testing." However, entrapement of that type has not been recognized in America.)

Be that as it may, the NYPD kinda fucked up this one, what with the 10 day thing and all, and does seem like a bit of waste in NY.
posted by Snyder at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2007


But...we know he would have done it, without any prompting

No, we don't know that. We know that this person will steal this bag. We don't know if, say, that guy lost his job last week and his family is starving and hey, there's this bag and nobody seems to be paying attention to it and...

Of course, that wouldn't have happened if the bag weren't there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:00 PM on November 29, 2007


whoa, good to know about this scary entrapment ploy. Thanks for the warning. This is definitely entrapment and creating crime. Or is this some sort of covert make New Yorkers terrified of touching anything sitting unattended in case it's a bomb?

Interesting question about what constitutes a crime, if an object is lost, lying on the pavement, is it a crime to pick up money from the pavement or a lost watch or an item left by carelessness or negligence on the part of another person?

What about finders keepers, losers weepers?
posted by nickyskye at 11:21 PM on November 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's NOT entrapment, as they were not incited into the offense by an officer.

The same "It's entrapment" defense has been tried by the dumbasses who steal 'bait cars'. It didn't fly then and it probably won't fly now!
posted by Sukiari at 12:16 AM on November 30, 2007


It is entrapment by any reasonable standard. But authoritarians have managed to enshrine a very narrow definition of "entrapment" so that the cops pretty much have to come up and ask you to commit a crime for them. It's the same sort of thing that makes fools and villains claim waterboarding isn't torture. "Hey, it's all right there in the rules and regulations, dumbass!"
posted by languagehat at 5:30 AM on November 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thank you lh, it's obviously entrapment, as picking up something lost, left behind, left unattended is very different from breaking into somebody's car with the intention of stealing it. Astonishing those who cannot see this.

It is not a crime to pick something up that has been lost. If it were why would there ever be a Lost and Found department for all public transport throughout recent history? Why would a reward be offered to anyone who has found items left in train stations, taxis, on buses etc? It would then also be illegal to have a lost and found department or offer a reward for lost items.

It is impossible to know the intention of the person picking up the lost item. Will they return it or not? This is a deliberate, planned set up by the police, to arrest a person, in public, handcuffing them, taking them to jail without 1) knowing what the intention of the person was, to attempt to return the item 2) without there being a law that says it is illegal to pick up any lost item I do not see what loophole is being used to do this to the general public. It certainly seems disgusting, undermining, immoral and outrageous to me.
posted by nickyskye at 8:38 AM on November 30, 2007


Thank you lh, it's obviously entrapment, as picking up something lost, left behind, left unattended is very different from breaking into somebody's car with the intention of stealing it. Astonishing those who cannot see this.

Indeed, agreed, but the scenario does make me chuckle: "Honest, officer, I was just trying to return this Hyundai Sonata to its rightful owner..."
posted by LordSludge at 9:28 AM on November 30, 2007


"Honest, officer, I was just trying to return this Hyundai Sonata to its rightful owner..."

The content of the bag/package is an interesting point. If it were full of paperwork in a non-English language and a person picked it up, would that be illegal? What if the bag contained medicine and would likely be needed significantly by the person who left it?

If the content of the bag makes it a crime to look into it and pick it up, then how would that law be worded? Is it ANY package that is illegal to pick up or only a package with a popularly desirable commodity?

Ultimately, the police are rushing to judge the intention of the person doing the picking up without knowing that intention. The police are not mind readers. The person doing the picking up of the bag is not breaking into a locked car. They are not taking something on another person, they are picking up something left neglected, for all intents and purposes, lost.

There have been many stories of good citizens who returned left possessions, even priceless ones or ones of spectacular value. I remember hearing that Yo Yo Ma left his priceless cello in a NYC cab and it was returned by the, no doubt financially strapped, cab driver. Another 3.5 million buck cello returned story. No arrests involved, even when there was suspicion. So, out of all the lost packages found in the USA, did this new law about it being illegal to pick up a lost package come into effect and why were the public not told about it so they could avoid picking up any package?

People, in my experience, have until now been taught it is ok to pick up something lost, that it is more honest to return it to the person who lost it, to give it to the police or, if unethical, to keep it but I have not ever seen that it is a crime to pick up something lost or left.

On the number of occasions I've lost something in a cab, a train or store, left it on the counter or put it down and in a rush left it behind, it never dawned on me that the finder of my left stuff was doing anything illegal in taking my left or lost posessions. It was my responsibility for losing what I did. The fault was my own, not in the finder.
posted by nickyskye at 10:47 AM on November 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


dejah420 writes "New York has so much amazing stuff. The architecture, the museums, the libraries, the art and music and theatre, the shopping...oh, the shopping... It's an amazing place. "

Good thing the shopping is good, it sounds like NYers need to do it a lot.
posted by Mitheral at 12:33 AM on December 2, 2007


I agree that it should be OK to pick up a lost item, and then bring it to the lost and found or alert a mall employee or some other person who has the power to see that the item gets back to its rightful owner.

But I KNOW you don't have the right to abscond with property just because its left on the street, and I can imagine that the intent of the person will become obvious after they pick the bag up. The further you are from the spot the bag was picked up at, the less likely you are to intend to return it. At least, that's the way most any judge or jury would see it.
posted by Sukiari at 6:39 PM on December 2, 2007


And on the New York thing, I would like to visit a few museums there, but I don't get any kind of thrill from shopping. Except shopping for camera lenses. Shopping is just something I have to do to obtain the items I need to live.
posted by Sukiari at 6:41 PM on December 2, 2007


Hey Sukiari, NYC is heaven on freaking earth. Some of us who live there could not imagine living anywhere else as happily, and I'm one of them. I've lived a lot of places, and the cops were *assholes* in all of them, as bad or worse as NYC cops in most of them. Like the cops don't entrap people in other places?

Generic, chauvinist, ignorant New York-bashing. Must go with Ron Paul-loving artificial inseminating wackiness.

New York is for people who are at the top of their game, in whatever they do. People who aren't at the top of their game resent that, I guess. Personally, every time my plane lands in New York, I feel like I am safe from shit-heads like you who live everywhere else.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:32 PM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


"Alert a mall employee"

Sukiari, I am a NY'er. I grew up close to the city so not a native to the city, by any means. I suffered the suburbs, and the jerks, thieves, liars and drug addled criminals that the suburbs is so profoundly good at hiding in plain sight. But I've been hanging here (NYC)since I got my license...almost 20 years ago. I've seen what the ugly 90's had to make do with after the 80's totally failed to fix the hardships of the 70's that the 60's plainly were busy avoiding. Now that I finally live in the city I have admired and treasured my whole life, I know it isn't candyland. But i know as a citizen, I care how we as "citizens" are treated. Which is what this thread is about.

You want to hate on NYC? Fine. Explain what is wrong with my beautiful city besides the asshat cops.

Go back to the "mall."

I don't know what you think about people in New York City. We are some vast city of scary thugs trying to kill/steal/shop themselves to death?

Try the fucking "mall" without us.

I'll have you know, and it may have been pointed out upthread, and I missed it, but if you'd read a damn paper, and frankly ANY paper (as my brother who lives out west was the person who pointed it out to me), you would see that NYC has the lowest homicide rate since they started taking data. One of the lowest in the country. It's again turning back into the city it was for MOST OF IT'S FUCKING HISTORY.

The kind of place where I will be chased down by my cab driver, in Manhattan, because he thought I gave him too much money. A store owner in Brooklyn will follow you out because they mistakenly overcharged you, and you didn't notice. A place where we may not know the names of our next door neighbors, but we choose our bodega. And stand by it. We shovel the neighbors steps, because I am young and they are not. Not because they are friends. That should not be the impetus for behaving with grace, dammit.

Anyhow, I don't know why I am bothering to respond to you, troll, but I know Manhattan has some wack ass cops.

Which is what we are discussing. Not some Suburban asshat who will take from strangers, because you all have no real neighbors.

I find the notion of alerting a mall employee somewhere akin to NOT WANTING TO EXPLAIN New York City to you at all. This ain't a "stay out of it" stance, it's just a...sorry your suburban neighbors suck so much, but it doesn't have a damn thing to do with entrapment.
posted by metasav at 11:53 PM on December 2, 2007


"Explain what is wrong with my beautiful city besides the asshat cops."

Let me direct you to a quote by fellow New Yorker fourcheesemac, found above:

"New York is for people who are at the top of their game, in whatever they do. People who aren't at the top of their game resent that, I guess. Personally, every time my plane lands in New York, I feel like I am safe from shit-heads like you who live everywhere else."

It's the attitude. Same attitude you get from people who live in LA. You're not the center of the universe, and believe it or not people do just fine outside of New York. Believe it or not, some people have no desire to go to New York, and really, you're no more special than any other megacity.

So great, enjoy yourselves in New York. Stay there!
posted by Sukiari at 12:35 AM on December 3, 2007


Oh there's one thing wrong with NYC all right.

Tourists.
posted by Skorgu at 4:38 AM on December 3, 2007


Metasav, your comments betray a stunning chauvinism and ignorance of what America is all about. No wonder you guys feel uncomfortable outside your little world. I would think that if I went around talking about everybody who wasn't a Portlander like you New Yorkers (and LA people) do of non-New Yorkers, I would probably encounter some antagonism too.

Again, a credit to your city. Arrogant, ignorant, and isolated. I live right smack downtown in the city that is consistently ranked the best place to live in America. New York ain't even in the to 50.
posted by Sukiari at 9:23 PM on December 3, 2007


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