by Dale Chappell
What would you do if you found an “abandoned” bag containing valuables and cash? Would you pick it up? Back in 2006, at least 220 people did just that and found themselves arrested on charges of petty theft. It was all a scheme by the New York Police Department (NYPD), in an attempt to rid the streets of repeat offenders. But “Operation Lucky Bag,” as it was called, was put to rest after a 2013 class-action lawsuit led to a settlement.
In December 2018, Operation Lucky Bag was resurrected, once again targeting unwitting petty thieves, when NYPD officers placed a bag containing valuables and cash outside a Manhattan Macy’s store. One of those arrested was Tamarit Orquidea, charged with petty larceny. “I would have taken it to the precinct down the street from my house,” she said. Police claim she walked by a uniformed NYPD officer with the bag and took money from it.
Just 30 minutes later, Cinque Brown was entrapped by the same bag and arrested. He was charged with possession of stolen property and petty larceny. At Brown’s arraignment, Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Melissa Crane said, “I just don’t understand why this is still going on in this city – I really don’t.”
While picking up an abandoned bag and not turning it over to a nearby officer is not a crime, if it’s valued at more than $20, a person has 10 days to find the owner or turn it over to police. It is also a crime to remove items from the bag.
The New York County Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society said within days of the revival of Operation Lucky Bag it represented at least nine people entrapped by the NYPD.
Interestingly, the purpose of Operation Lucky Bag, police said, was to catch career criminals and those with long rap sheets. Instead, it netted hardly anyone with a criminal record.
If police are able to create crimes out of thin air to lock people up who present no danger to the community, whatever trust still exists by the public in the police becomes even less.
As a digital subscriber to Criminal Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login