One purse was found just sitting on a display shelf in the shoe department at Macy’s. Another one turned up downstairs, in Macy’s Cellar. Yet another rested on a chair in a Midtown McDonald’s, left by a woman who had stepped into the restroom. In fact, all three items had been planted by police officers in plainclothes during the previous six weeks. And the three people who picked them up were arrested, and now face indictment on charges that could land them in state prison.
Nine months ago, a similar police decoy program called Operation Lucky Bag was effectively shut down by prosecutors and judges who were concerned that it was sweeping up the civic-minded alongside those bent on larceny. Shopping bags, backpacks and purses were left around the subway system, then stealthily watched by undercover officers. They arrested anyone who took the items and walked past a police officer in uniform without reporting the discovery.
Now, a new version of the operation has started to catch people in public places outside the subways, and at much higher stakes, Criminal Court records show. Unlike the initial program, in which the props were worth at most a few hundred dollars, the bags are now salted with real American Express cards, issued under pseudonyms to the Police Department. Because the theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a Class E felony, those convicted could face sentences of up to four years. The charges in the first round of Operation Lucky Bag were nearly all petty larceny, a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
So after the original program was shut down for entrapping too many innocents, the police decided to widen its scope and increase the criminal penalties? Terrific idea. Hey, I bet if they start stuffing those purses with jewels and bearer bonds they can put those villainous picker-uppers-of-misplaced-items behind bars for life. That'd show 'em.