To Catch a Petty Thief


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.