The Wedding Sting
May 15, 2015 3:00 AM   Subscribe

After months of undercover work, Williams and Moon had information on more than 40 suspects, but the department realized it didn’t have the funds or the manpower to round them all up. So it had to come up with clever ideas. “Cops used to offer parolees free tickets to the Detroit Lions, then arrest them,” recalls Peggy Lawrence, a Flint historian. On one occasion, Moon quietly arrested and locked up stolen property dealer, announced his death in the newspaper, and arrested gang members who showed up at his fake funeral. “Sometimes you gotta do things that are simply funny,” Moon later told a television reporter. “People gotta go to jail, but it don’t always have to be sad.” In 1990, the department planned a particularly elaborate operation: Officers would throw a fake wedding, invite all the suspects, and arrest them.
posted by ellieBOA (33 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
In Sea of Love, Pacino's character establishes his good character during a sting exactly like Moon's in this article, by giving some latitude to one suspect who arrives with his son.

I never thought real police would also play these tricks, it seems too suave, too Hollywood for them.
posted by kandinski at 3:05 AM on May 15, 2015


Seems infinitely better than SWAT teams, helicopters, snipers and tanks.
posted by ardgedee at 3:32 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


That was the craziest-ever story.
posted by resurrexit at 3:55 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is kind of like that movie Hot Stuff with Jerry Reed and Dom DeLuise.
posted by jonmc at 4:23 AM on May 15, 2015


I recall a similar story, only it was a fake game show, with the perp (usually a fugitive lying low) being informed that they won a prize and had to turn up to the filming to collect it. They had a studio with sets, cameras and a studio audience, and went through the motions of the game show before informing the winner, at the climax of it, that he was under arrest for (long list of crimes), at which point the camera zoomed in to a close-up of his face.
posted by acb at 4:24 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seems infinitely better than SWAT teams, helicopters, snipers and tanks.

Hey, whatever it takes to bring in the white suspects without hurting anybody!
posted by duffell at 4:27 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I knew the cops were Freys and Lannisters!
posted by srboisvert at 4:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


THE BLUE WEDDING
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


How a police department tried to save a failing Rust Belt town by luring all the local drug dealers to one party
Spoiler: It didn't work. Amazingly, Flint still has drugs.
posted by Etrigan at 5:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sanctity of marriage my ass.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:29 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fake wedding? That's nothing! Down in these parts they set up a fake tattoo parlor.
posted by TedW at 5:29 AM on May 15, 2015


Aw, cops are so adorable when they're not murdering folks in cold blood. Kind of like cats.
posted by localroger at 5:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


> at which point the camera zoomed in to a close-up of his face.

Why do we need to see a close-up of a suspect's face as they're arrested? I'm not sure about this sort of thing at all. It's like those news stories on crap local TV where they gleefully describe the accused's partner or parent sobbing in the public gallery as their relative is sent to the cells. It's prurient and vengeful and adds absolutely nothing to the process of justice.

Having said that, there's a lot about this particular tale that doesn't ring true at all. Why would a criminal lying low agree to appear on television? And if the police had his details to send him the invitation to the filming, why didn't they use those details to go and find him?
posted by winterhill at 5:42 AM on May 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Having said that, there's a lot about this particular tale that doesn't ring true at all. Why would a criminal lying low agree to appear on television? And if the police had his details to send him the invitation to the filming, why didn't they use those details to go and find him?

That's what Liberty said at the time, too:
Barry Hugill, spokesman for civil liberties group Liberty, said: "This has the ring of a PR stunt. I find this very distasteful. I clearly have no objection to the police tracking down petty offenders and people who have not paid their fines but not if it becomes part of showbusiness.

"A crime is something that is very serious and it cannot be treated like a gameshow. Police will at times use covert measures but the way this has become entertainment is distasteful." Mr Hugill also questioned the need for the sting if police had the addresses of the suspects.

He said the lawyers of those brought to court could question whether there had been an invasion of privacy in the manner of their arrest.
posted by Etrigan at 6:29 AM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


in one bit of rural England, the local police were fed up with a gang of petty thieves whom they knew were monitoring the police radios (which was and is illegal in the UK, unlike the US). So one evening they positioned themselves behind a hedge in a field and had their station call up saying that a UFO had been seen landing there. They replied as if they'd got there and my god, you should see this, better get on the blower to the army and the government, etc, and waited.

They got the gang, and also confiscated a bunch of radios from the local nerds who came pouring in from miles around...
posted by Devonian at 6:29 AM on May 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


The answer to the "why don't they go get them if they know where they are" questions seem obvious: it reduces the potential for violence. A suspect in their home may have weapons and a willingness to use them when the police show up, but is probably less likely to be armed (or as heavily armed) going to a game show.

And if the sting idea doesn't work, they always know where the person is.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:34 AM on May 15, 2015


Something similar happened in Shreveport, Louisiana in the mid '90s. A Budweiser delivery semi-trailer pulled up to the grocery store that was a popular hangout for a local gang, and out popped a SWAT team.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:21 AM on May 15, 2015


Yes! This is the kind of creativity we need! More, please, while respecting civil rights.
posted by 4midori at 7:26 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


A bit too much effort for (mostly) petty drug dealers, IMO, but definitely better than no knock raids with SWAT. And probably better than harassing motorists on the side of the road.
posted by wierdo at 8:01 AM on May 15, 2015


This happened in Massachusetts a few years ago I think, they lured a bunch of men into a large school auditorium (they were told they'd won a lottery prize or something), and then promptly arrested them for failure to pay child support and other crimes. Whatever works, I guess.

Why would a criminal lying low agree to appear on television?

I know nothing about criminals, but it seems to me that many of them aren't too bright. How often do you read about someone who posts their victories to Facebook or who had drugs in their car but then got stopped for speeding or running a light? If I had criminal evidence in my car, I'd be pretty good about following the traffic rules.
posted by Melismata at 8:12 AM on May 15, 2015


Ow! My boating arm!

(Up up and away! In my beautiful, my beautiful motor boat!)
posted by dirigibleman at 8:31 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


That second picture looks like the folks I used to hang around with at that time. I wondered whatever happened to them . . .
posted by rtimmel at 9:50 AM on May 15, 2015


The trouble had started in 1986, when General Motors announced it would close seven plants in the area, starting a depression.Thousands of workers were laid off, and families began to flee the area in search of jobs. In 1987, Money magazine had named Flint the worst place to live in America. Now, dealers were at large, peddling cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and prescription pills.

Holding a wedding to arrest these dealers is funny, and much better than having SWAT teams break down their doors and kill their dogs, but it still seems like unplugging your Nintendo as a solution to wasting too much time now that you're unemployed. The niche will continue to be filled until the underlying causes are taken care of.

Unless a defendant made three buys at least, a defense attorney could claim he had been an innocent man, entrapped by cops. So the detectives had to become regular customers—and a genuine part of the underworld.

This is a great standard for avoiding entrapment. If only it were still upheld.
posted by Rangi at 10:23 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


There was a reality show that did a version of this: Smile... You're Under Arrest. It's not the worst thing that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been associated with, but it's still kind of awful.
posted by Jart at 10:27 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not the worst thing that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been associated with

That is setting the bar lower than the lowest bar ever detected with the world's most powerful electron microscope.
posted by localroger at 11:47 AM on May 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I just find this depressing. I know I am a top-level crank about the war on some drugs that lack lobbyists, so I guess I am out of step. But all that time and effort to bust people in the drug scene who may or may not just be trying to get by. I lose no sleep over the busting of violent folks but even there I can't get past the fact that the niche exists because of the prohibition. The refutation of this being a victimless crime is that some of those folks had their kid with them?
posted by phearlez at 11:51 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why do we need to see a close-up of a suspect's face as they're arrested?

Because the downfall of a transgressor is the one time that one is allowed to feel sadism, secure in the knowledge that they are a good person. ("transgressor" is defined according to society's norms at the time.)
posted by acb at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2015


So my understanding of old drug lingo is that screamers were hallucinogens, so the ring in undercover agent that was filling gel caps with coffee mate was pretending to be taking mescaline or something similar. And I just don't get that, what kind of a drug dealer gets handed some fake drugs, takes them and then pretends like they're feeling it?
On a side note, I've always liked acid manufacturers defence against undercovers, want to buy bulk? take a thumbprint, a week long life altering trip will weed out the cops.
posted by fido~depravo at 3:41 PM on May 15, 2015


As to the question of why a suspect would show up to a fake game show or other honey pot, in the words of a friend of mine who is a police officer, "they're not committing crimes because they're smart". She has heard such brilliant alibis as "these aren't my pants".
posted by plinth at 5:36 PM on May 15, 2015


Where's my movie of this?! And also, why do all of the pictures look like they're from 1970? Was Flint 20 years behind the times or what?

Anyway, the people in this are such characters, it was a hoot to read. "Thank you for sharing our joy," indeed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:19 PM on May 15, 2015


This story led me to delete my Atlantic Monthly bookmark.
posted by telstar at 10:29 PM on May 15, 2015


What good did it do? A lovely stunt, but pointless, and lousy for the kid.
The WoD is a tool, which different interests will use toward different ends. Some to do theater, some to do vandalism, some to bash nonwhites and hippies and the guy down the street who pissed them off, some to bring in funds. And some because they believe in it.
posted by Baeria at 9:53 AM on May 16, 2015


Because the downfall of a transgressor is the one time that one is allowed to feel sadism, secure in the knowledge that they are a good person.
"I know about sureness," said Didactylos. Now the light irascible tone had drained out of his voice. "I remember before I was blind, I went to Omnia once. This was before the borders were closed, when you still let people travel. And in your Citadel I saw a crowd stoning a man to death in a pit. Ever seen that?"
"It has to be done," Brutha mumbled. "So the soul can be shriven and—"
"Don't know about soul. Never been that kind of a philosopher," said Didactylos. "All I know is, it was a horrible sight."
"The state of the body is not—"
"Oh, I'm not talking about the poor bugger in the pit," said the philosopher. "I'm talking about the people throwing the stones. They were sure all right. They were sure it wasn't them in the pit. You could see it in their faces. So glad that it wasn't them that they were throwing just as hard as they could."
Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
posted by Rangi at 7:57 PM on May 19, 2015


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