NYPD Still Clinging To Decoy Purses, Operation Lucky Bag

September 18, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

The NYPD’s “Operation Lucky Bag” decoy operation, which has been in use for a decade, is finally facing some restrictions. The operation consists of police officers leaving bags or other items vulnerable to theft in open, public spaces, and waiting to arrest those who pick them up. The tactic has lead to arrests of those who intended to steal an item (arguably, via entrapment) and those who legitimately wanted to return the valuables to their rightful owner. The New York Times reports:

As early as 2007, judges and prosecutors criticized the way the Police Department ran the decoy operation. In 2012, the department’s top legal official acknowledged that in some arrests it was not clear that the person who had picked up the property had intended to commit larceny.

In response to a lawsuit by people arrested in these stings, city lawyers said that “in the future, police officers would have to confer with department lawyers each time they intended to conduct a Lucky Bag operation.”

The settlement also called for new training that would teach officers to make arrests under only certain circumstances, when, for example, someone removes a wallet or another valuable from the decoy bag, leaving the bag behind, or when the passer-by who took the decoy property denies having done so when confronted by an officer.

This is an impressive step towards arresting only those who actually intended to commit any kind of crime. Great job, everyone.

Three of those involved in the lawsuit will also receive financial settlements between $10,000 and $25,000.

One of them, Spiridon Argyros, said he had picked up a backpack and wallet that he had found leaning against a wall in Queens so that he could find their rightful owner and return them, according to papers filed by his lawyers. In the lawsuit, Mr. Argyros said that as a manager of a diner, he was accustomed to finding items left behind and holding onto them for safekeeping, until they could be returned.

“For too long, too many New Yorkers’ rights were violated,” said Norman Siegel, a lawyer for Mr. Argyros. “Hopefully with this settlement there will be less civil rights violations in the future.”

And less bomb scares too. (Photo: Steve and Sara Emry)