Wow, I guess Rudy Giuliani really did banish all crime in New York City if the police have go out and drum up business for themselves. It seems that the police are planting "lost" purses and other bags around the city and then arresting folks who pick them up and walk away, assuming they pass a uniformed cop without turning the property in. Originally, the prosecutions were for misdemeanors, as the items "taken" didn't really have much value. Now, the cops are seeding the bags with American Express cards such that the takings become felonies.
As the linked article makes clear, this has resulted in the prosecution of a good number of people trying to do the right thing. The initial program - "Operation Lucky Bag" (who comes up with these names?) - was shut down by "prosecutors and judges who were concerned that it was sweeping up the civic-minded alongside those bent on larceny." With good reason:
However, 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. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office began to dismiss Lucky Bag charges.As an example:
In February, Aquarius Cheers, a 31-year-old Manhattan man who said he was on a shopping expedition with his wife, spotted a Verizon shopping bag with a cellphone and iPod inside at the 59th Street station of the No. 1 train.Is that really the best thing that cops in NYC have to do with their time? Sting operations aren't inherently bad things, but this one looks like its only goal is the jack up the numbers of the arresting officers and the prosecuting attorneys.
As he was looking in the bag, a train arrived. Mr. Cheers said he and his wife boarded, rushed past a uniformed officer, bringing along the bag with the intention of looking for a receipt. Undercover officers then grabbed him. After his case was reported by NY1, the prosecutors vacated the charges.