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Are 'bait' cars illegal ?

new york petty larceny false arrest undercover humiliation

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#1 Hum

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 22:50

NEW YORK (AP) — Sometimes the bait is a small amount of cash in a stray wallet. Or a credit card. Even a pack of cigarettes can do the trick.

Police in New York City leave the items unattended — on subway platforms, on park benches, in cars — and wait to see if someone grabs them.

The New York Police Department says the practice has been a valuable tool for catching career criminals and deterring thefts in public places. But a recent court ruling throwing out a larceny case against a Bronx woman cast a harsh light on a tactic critics say too often sweeps up innocent people.

Judge Linda Poust Lopez found that there was no proof Deirdre Myers tried to steal anything — and that she was framed by a sting that took the tactic way too far.

Upholding the charges "would greatly damage the confidence and trust of the public in the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and rightly so," the judge wrote.

Myers, a 40-year-old single mother with no criminal record, has since sued the city, claiming she and her daughter were traumatized by a wrongful arrest in 2010.

"You know how embarrassing and humiliating this was?" Myers said. "I'd never been stopped by the police for anything in my life."

The city Law Department is still reviewing Myers' lawsuit, city attorney Raju Sundaran said in a statement. But, he added, "undercover sting operations are lawful and help reduce crime."

The judge suggested that Myers' brush with the law had its roots in the so-called lucky bag operation that the NYPD began in 2006 to deter thefts of wallets, shopping bags, smartphones and other valuables in the subways.

According to court papers and to Myers' account, she and her daughter Kenya, then a 15-year-old high school student, were sitting on the stoop of their building when the sting unfolded.

The summer scene was interrupted by a bit of theater staged by police: A dark car raced down the block before stopping. Another vehicle carrying plainclothes officers wasn't far behind. When the driver got out and ran, the officers gave chase, yelling, "Stop! Police!" her suit says.

Myers' daughter, seeing that the driver left the car door open, went over and peered inside to see personal items that included what looked like a bundle of cash — in reality, a dollar bill wrapped around pieces of newspaper. The girl had called her mother over when another set of police officers suddenly pulled up in a van and forced them to the ground, according to Myers' account.

"Get on the floor? For what?" Myers recalled telling the officers.

The officers took them into custody, even though they never touched anything inside the car, the suit says. While entering a stationhouse in handcuffs, Myers spotted the driver of the car standing outside, smoking a cigarette. It dawned on her that he was an undercover with a starring role in the sting — a suspicion supported by the court ruling.

The girl ultimately wasn't charged. But her mother spent more than two years fighting charges of petty larceny and possession of stolen property.

A typical scenario was for a plainclothes officer to place a handbag with cash on a train platform and briefly look or step away. Anyone who took the bag, then passed up chances to return it to the undercover cop or to report it to a uniformed officer posted nearby could be locked up.

At the time, police credited the subway operation with driving down crime there. They say they still use the tactic when they see a spike in thefts of personal property in public places such as Grand Central Terminal or Central Park. But they now require more evidence of intent — a suspect trying to hide a wallet or taking cash out of it and throwing it away — before making an arrest.

Authorities began using "bait cars" about six years ago in the Bronx to combat a chronic problem with car thefts and break-ins in working-class neighborhoods. In most cases, police plant property — an iPad, a pack of cigarettes — in plain sight as the bait for thieves but make sure the car is locked so that a suspect would have to take the extra step of breaking in before being arrested.

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#2 DocM

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 00:05

You can lead a horse to water, but can 't force him to drink. His actions are voluntary.

The issue is, was there a criminal intent? As mom slways said - "look, but don't touch!"

If so, and the persons actions indicate there was, then Judge Proust is full of bull and will be overtuened when the state appeals

#3 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 00:12

The officers took them into custody, even though they never touched anything inside the car, the suit says. While entering a stationhouse in handcuffs, Myers spotted the driver of the car standing outside, smoking a cigarette. It dawned on her that he was an undercover with a starring role in the sting — a suspicion supported by the court ruling.


There's nothing wrong with the principle of "bait cars", as a person should be able to leave their car unlocked with the doors open without fear of its contents being stolen. The issue here is that nothing was taken, therefore they should never have been arrested. You can't arrest people simply because they peer inside an unlocked car with its doors open. It's quite possible they would have stolen the items in question but the point is that they didn't.

#4 Praetor

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 00:14

but they didn't touch any of the items of the car, so why were they arrested? the car was open, the girl looked upon the items and called the mother; even if the behavior is suspicious, it's just that, behavior.

#5 Original Poster

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 00:53

pfft....finders keepers losers weepers ....

#6 Growled

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:02

Personally I think bait cars are wrong. This person obvious didn't touch anything so she should not have been charged.

#7 Skin

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:06

anyone willing to get into a car that is not theirs... for the purpose of driving away without owner intent gets what they deserve.

if they look inside... pfft who cares, like you never looked in a car to see what they had for pure curiosity.

#8 exotoxic

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:10

If they did not touch anything how could they be charged with possession of stolen property?? :/

#9 MDboyz

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:10

.,,,, well bait car only for catching dumb criminals :) ...

#10 OP Hum

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 01:52

I thought this was about the bait cars like on TV, where the keys are left inside, unlocked, and the crook drives off, then gets pulled over.

Funny show on TV.

#11 Torolol

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 02:39

I personaly agree with 'bait cars' concepts, the problem is the Enforcers are jumping to quickly, they should've waited until the 'prey' pulling the items out of the car.

#12 LUTZIFER

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 02:44

I thought this was about the bait cars like on TV, where the keys are left inside, unlocked, and the crook drives off, then gets pulled over.

Funny show on TV.

That's what I thought this was about also,
Bait Cars, like in the TV show, is definitely a crime being committed by the person, and I definitely see no wrong in the cops setting that up.
But someone looking in to a car, as long as it's just looking in, not actually going in to, then there is no crime there.
If the door was open, and the person actually did get right in to the car, then yeah, that is a crime, that's trespassing, maybe even intent.

#13 +zhiVago

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 08:53

A pack of cigarettes baits poor nicotine-addicted heads, not criminals.

And in the land of the free, I should be able to pick-up anything that's left unattended without the fear of becoming a subject of bait. What if I pick-up a wallet with the sole intention of taking it to the lost and found? Or they trying to engineer the society to make it like Japan where people return to the place where they'd lost something?

#14 jerzdawg

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 14:43

A pack of cigarettes baits poor nicotine-addicted heads, not criminals. And in the land of the free, I should be able to pick-up anything that's left unattended without the fear of becoming a subject of bait. What if I pick-up a wallet with the sole intention of taking it to the lost and found? Or they trying to engineer the society to make it like Japan where people return to the place where they'd lost something?

Article clearly states that "then passed up chances to return it to the undercover cop or to report it to a uniformed officer posted nearby". Also keep in mind the mom/daughter are saying they didnt touch the contents of the car but that doesnt mean thats what really happened.

#15 Crisp

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 14:46

If they did not touch anything how could they be charged with possession of stolen property?? :/


They're stealing your Oxygen!!

Happy Birthday, old chap.



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