Law enforcement agencies use sting operations to catch criminals in the act of committing a crime. While there is a place for undercover operations, there is a fine line between sting operations and entrapment. The way the FBI aids and abets wannabe terrorists by giving them bomb materials, weapons, vehicles, and lots of money is questionable at best. If they didn’t hold the would-be criminal’s hand the entire way, there likely would never be an incident at all.
The NYPD have been carrying out what they call “Operation Lucky Bag.” It’s a sting operation of sorts, but it amounts to pure entrapment. Police will plant a purse, cash, or any kind of valuable, like an iPad, somewhere in the city such as next to a bench. They will lie in wait for someone to come and take it and then arrest the person for theft, even if the person fully intended to turn in the item.
One such victim of this operation is suing the NYPD for $1 million. His name is Yakov Dubin. He’s a 49-year-old Russian immigrant who works in real estate in Atlanta. He and his family were visiting New York in Central Park last year when all this happened. The New York Daily News reported:
“Dubin’s court filing said his troubles began after he found a purse without identification under a bench. Dubin admits that he pulled out the cash, left the purse because it was old and smelly and started to walk away. That’s when a group of plainclothes cops confronted him, asking him if he had anything that didn’t belong to him. ‘Plaintiff told the officers that he had taken the money out of the purse in order to turn it over to a park ranger,’ the lawsuit states. ‘(He) then gave the money to the officers.’ But he was handcuffed anyway, prompting tears from his teenage daughter, the lawsuit said. “Don’t worry,” one of the “Lucky Bag” officers allegedly told her. ‘We’ll take your daddy to a good jail.'”
He was taken and held in custody for 4 hours and was charged with “petty larceny” and “possession of stolen property.” A month later, they reduced the charge to “disorderly conduct” and fined him $120.
The amount that Dubin “stole” was $27 in cash. He indicated to the police that caught him that he had just taken out $100 in cash from the ATM and had no motive to keep $27. It didn’t matter. He had taken their bait, and it gave them an excuse to arrest him.
A spokesman for the NYPD said these kinds of operations help prevent thefts. He said:
“Someone who opens a bag that doesn’t belong to him, stuffs $27 in his pocket and walks away is not innocent. Any law-abiding person who has had their property stolen from a park bench or blanket will be happy to know that the NYPD is out there combating such thefts.”
Perhaps it might catch real thieves sometimes. But it will also catch those who legitimately try to return the items to the owners. It used to be that if you saw someone’s belongings that had been forgotten, you could take it to an authority who would hold it until the owner reported it missing. Now, if you see something that someone left, you’d better not try to return it or else you could face jail time for “petty larceny” and “possession of stolen property.”