Article from Reason by Joe Setyon.

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is still trying to lure unsuspecting residents into committing petty theft so it can lock them up.

Operation Lucky Bag began in 2006, supposedly as a way for police to put away people with existing rap sheets. Undercover officers would plant a bag, usually with money or other valuables inside, in a public place. They’d wait for someone to “steal” the planted property then make an arrest.

In other words, they were creating crimes out of thin air. If, indeed, they were crimes at all. Under state law, people who find property worth more than $20 have 10 days to either return it to the owner or give it up to police.

Unsurprisingly, the practice drew controversy. In 2013, several people adversely affected by Operation Lucky Bag filed a class-action lawsuit against the NYPD. The following September, the two sides reached a settlement. The police clarified that “a person picking up property that they find cannot be charged with larceny simply because they fail to return property to a police officer who is located near the site at the time the property was found,” according to a January 2015 operations order provided to Reason by an NYPD spokesperson. Arrests can only be made if there is “a separation of any valuables from the rest of the property” (i.e., if a person takes cash out of a planted bag and discards the bag), if “a larceny by trespassory taking has occurred” (i.e., if someone grabs a bag hanging from a stroller), or if “an individual has taken property but denies seeing or possessing the property when approached by” police.

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By Joi Ito (Flickr: NYPD Drills) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons