Criminal Justice

To Catch a Petty Thief

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Police in New York City are leaving baited wallets and purses around the city, then arresting people who pick them up and walk by a police officer without turning them over. If the wallet or purse contains a credit card, the thief/possible-good-Samaritan could get four years in state prison. Never mind that walking past a police officer with found property isn't even a crime.

…more than half of those 220 involved people with no prior criminal record. In dismissing one case, a Brooklyn judge noted that the law gives people 10 days to turn in property they find, and suggested the city had enough real crime for the police to fight without any need to provide fresh temptations. The penal law also does not require that found items be turned over to a police officer.

I'm sure the traps do catch some bona-fide petty thieves, too. But damn. Is NYC so safe now that the police have nothing better to do than create crime?

Also, while talking about this case with some friends the other night, the question of a "reverse sting" came up. That is, if someone were to come up with a scheme whereby 10 or 20 "found" wallets with cash and decoy IDs inside were turned over to random NYC cops on patrol, how many would end up back in the hands of their rightful owners? My guess is very few. Not necessarily because the cops would steal them. More because they'd likely get lost in the NYPD bureaucracy. Point is, maybe quite a few people arrested in this dumb waste of law enforcement resources thought they'd have better luck trying to get the purses and wallets back to their owners on their own.

NEXT: Blocking Bolivarian Boulevard

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  1. The last thing I would do with a found wallet is hand it over to a cop.

  2. The reverse sting is the best idea I’ve seen all morning.

  3. I once found a credit card. I picked it up and destroyed it. I guess I could have been nice and reported it to the CC company, but at least I prevented someone from fraudulently using it.

  4. if someone were to come up with a scheme whereby 10 or 20 “found” wallets with cash and decoy IDs inside were turned over to random NYC cops on patrol, how many would end up back in the hands of their rightful owners? My guess is very few. Not necessarily because the cops would steal them. More because they’d likely get lost in the NYPD bureaucracy.

    Bullshit. The cops would take the money and purposefully lose the wallets in the bureacracy. They could get them back to the owners (even devoid of cash and say it was turned in empty), but that would require a little work.

    I personally have had NYPD, and other police officers talk about picking the handguns they want for drop guns and personal guns. These guns were coming not only from confiscated guns but from guns that were stored with the police (suspended handgun license, etc.) for more than 1 year. The cops see all this stuff as just presents for themselves, and they are fully aware of how much, say, a Kimber is worth.

  5. Amazing how libertarians conveniently forget private property rights when taking someone else’s is so easy.

  6. In Iraq, sniper teams are doing the same thing.

    Except they don’t arrest people who take the bait. They execute them on the spot.

  7. If I found a wallet, praticularly one with an ID in it, I’d google whoevers name was on it, find their phone number and give them a call so I could return it.

    I would not turn it over to the cops for reasons stated above.

    If I found money just laying around on the sidewalk with now wallet I’d take it. Thats not illegal yet, is it?

  8. I have found several wallets over the years. I have never turned them over to the police. In each case it proved pretty easy to track down the owners.

    I have also lost several wallets over the years and in each case the finders have managed to return my property to me. Last time there was a couple hundred in cash, still there. The Good Sam turned my wallet in to the manager of the grocery store instead of the stoopid cops. Good thing.

  9. In Iraq, sniper teams are doing the same thing.

    Except they don’t arrest people who take the bait. They execute them on the spot.

    QFT! Has Rudy denounced this practice?

  10. That’s a great story, TWC.

    Most people really are good at heart.

  11. Hey, now, J sub D, you can’t have people walking around holding wallets. The police are likely to, justifiably, confuse them for handguns and shoot you 41 times.

    NYC used to have a sane, very capable Chief of Police named William Bratton.

    He was one of the pioneers of the community policing strategy in Massachusetts. He had a great deal of success in New York, too.

    Then Rudy fired him, so he could give his job to Bernie Kerick. No kidding, that actually happened.

  12. Thread goes to joe.

  13. Excellent! Now if I find something that I would normally not think twice about picking up and making sure it is returned to its rightful owner, I’ll leave the items there. Great job! Crime is down 13%. Returned property is now down for the count.

  14. Great. Now how the f**k am I supposed to get my wallet from the cops?

  15. NYC cops have not had anything better to do for a loooooong time.

    Same for the NYFD. “Offical” policy is to say how busy you are, no matter how many (or few) calls come in.

  16. I’ve never turned over found property to the cops, always tracked the owner down myself. Have had the same done in return.

    Give found property to a cop? Can’t trust ’em.

  17. Give found property to a cop? Can’t trust ’em.

    It’s much more prudent to just drop it in a mailbox.

  18. In Iraq, sniper teams are doing the same thing.

    Except they don’t arrest people who take the bait. They execute them on the spot.

    Claims that American soldiers are gunning people down who pick up a wallet lying in the street require some kind linky-linky, joe.

  19. Claims that American soldiers are gunning people down who pick up a wallet lying in the street require some kind linky-linky, joe.

    RC, I think he was referring to sectarian sniper teams not the American military. At least I hope so.

  20. I have also lost several wallets over the years and in each case the finders have managed to return my property to me. Last time there was a couple hundred in cash, still there. The Good Sam turned my wallet in to the manager of the grocery store instead of the stoopid cops. Good thing.

    Happened to me once.

  21. If the wallet or purse contains a credit card, the thief/possible-good-Samaritan could get four years in state prison. Never mind that walking past a police officer with found property isn’t even a crime.

    Is this a great country, or what?

  22. Claims that American soldiers are gunning people down who pick up a wallet lying in the street require some kind linky-linky, joe.

    RC:

    This is the link

  23. Unfortunately, joe’s reference is to US forces using bait (like wire) and sniping whomever picks it up. Link.

    Since that’s kind of depressing, here’s Whiplash The Cowboy Monkey as a palate cleanser.

  24. I love the reverse sting idea. This needs to be done.

  25. Is NYC so safe now that the police have nothing better to do than create crime?

    Eh? They do have vice squads, do they not? Entrapment is SOP.

  26. Thanks for the link, gentlemen. Reprehensible practice, no question. I would note this story comes out in this context:

    The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.

  27. What’s the penalty for finding a babe in a bar and returning her to her residence? Is that illegal in New York? Surely this would be an act of kindness that should be rewarded. In kind, maybe?

  28. Yeah, a few years back my sister lost her Camera in NYC, and since she had her name/address in the camera case, the person sent it back to her. Same thing happened to me with a wallet (though not in NYC)

  29. I’m just guessing here, but there has to be something else. Not even NYC’s Finest (TM) can be that frickin’ stupid. I suspect one of the 220 was the real target and this was the only reason way they could cook up. They had to charge everyone to avoid charges of “entrapment.”

    Screw the other 219. Beside, almost half of them had previous records, anyway.

  30. If the cop is willing to give you a signed, detailed receipt for the property you turn over, then fine. Otherwise, find the owner yourself.

  31. In Iraq, sniper teams are doing the same thing.

    Except they don’t arrest people who take the bait. They execute them on the spot.

    Umm, joe, the way you worded this implied that the snipers were killing people picking up wallets, not “materials that could conceivably be used in IEDs”. Perhaps you could be more careful in future?

    And, doesn’t this violate your own rule that all discussion on a thread has to be precisely about the topic under discussion? (Not that I agree with that rule — sometimes a good threadjack makes for a more interesting discussion.)

  32. AGRAFRAGLE! This is the shit that makes the wisps of smoke come out my ears. Isn’t false arrest a crime? Why aren’t these cops and their bosses being charged?

  33. Eh? They do have vice squads, do they not? Entrapment is SOP.

    Thanks for jiggling my memory, Sage.

    I thought that this had happened in NYC.

    Wow, it did.

  34. *rolls eyes* at the article

    I wouldn’t give it to the cops for a different reason than the normal ‘cops are corrupt’ bit (which they are) but due the fact that it would cost more in time and money for them to process it than determining who the owner is and send it back myself.

  35. RC,

    The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.

    And I’ll note that the trial in question involved some soldiers who flat-out murdered an Iraqi – one who stumbled on their position, raised his arms, and was killed anyway.

    The then planted evidence on him to make it look like they had executed when he reached down to pick up some cord – that is, snipers executing Iraqis who bend over to pick things up on the street is considered so acceptable among these sniper teams that is was used the cover story when a couple of troops killed somebody.

  36. linky linky = pwnd neokon thug fool

  37. How the hell could anybody forget that story about the snipers? How the hell do we know if they have stopped that?

  38. HIGHNUMBER, YOU POOR BOOB. WE DID NOT FORGET. WE IGNORED.

    BECAUSE THERE ARE FRESHLY-PAINTED SCHOOLS.

    SCHOOLS!!!!!

    FOR THE CHILDREN. SCHOOLS. WHERE THEY LEARN VALUES, LIKE NOT PICKING UP STUFF THAT’S NOT THEIRS.

  39. linky linky = pwnd neokon thug fool
    VM = gibberish speaking nutroot shithead.

  40. (you forgot “not potty trained” on your list of my charms)

  41. That would explain the shithead part…

  42. OH! forgot one! I can sing and mime (in costume) the entire “Llama Llama Duck” song! That’s my version of THE SURGE. And it works. Every. Time.

  43. Jeez, next thing you know, NYC cops will be arresting people for just standing on sidewalk…

    Oh, wait…

  44. BUT IF THEY’RE PAINTING SCHOOLS, TAKTIK. SCHOOLS.

    THAT WILL MAKE THE PWND NEOKON FOOLS HAPPY.

  45. VM, the Surge can be saved!

    You just have to want it.

  46. VM, the Surge can be saved!

    You just have to want it.

    BP, that crap really is crap. You can drink all of my ration. Please.

  47. J sub – I didn’t say it was a good idea, merely that it was possible.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had any. I have had Vault, which is like what Mountain Dew would probably taste like after a trip through a farm animal’s urinary system.

  48. This is a great idea, but I think they need to take it further. Plant cocaine in the purse before setting it on the ground, then if the person doesn’t turn it in, you arrest them for petty theft AND cocaine possession.

  49. crimethink,

    Shh! Don’t give them ideas.

  50. Baiting people is at the essence of this thread. Joe’s Iraq analogy is valid in that respect.

    I’m curious if one could sue the NYPD for false arrest since the person picking up the wallet has not committed a crime.

  51. Baiting people is at the essence of this thread.

    I disagree. I’d argue that it is Whiplash The Cowboy Monkey. Ride, little monkey! Ride!

  52. When I find a wallet or something I always try to return it directly to the owner, not the cops. It’s usually not that hard to do. Why, a couple of years ago I found a small billfold at the park & ride. It was for some young lady who was a student at a local college, and contained all her ID, as well as a few miscellaneous items.

    First, I looked at her name and checked the phone book. It was a distinctive last name, Pakistani or something, and wasn’t hard to find. I ended up speaking to her father, who was happy that his daughter’s ID had been found. I offered to deliver it to them personally.

    In the meantime I had looked her name up on the college directory and emailed her. She responded back quickly, and seemed pretty anxious to collect it herself. We went through a few mixups, and I ended up depositing it at a Lost and Found counter for her to get later.

    I was a little disappointed that she didn’t even thank me, though. I mean, if not for returning her drivers license and student card, at least for her birth control pills that were stuck in the back.

  53. If the wallet had a bunch of coke in it I would keep it.

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