Lawsuit Challenges NYPD's Anti-Theft Sting Tactics

Monday, May 20, 2013  |  Updated 10:00 PM EDT
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Lawsuit Challenges NYPD's Anti-Theft Sting Tactics

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The New York Police Department's practice of leaving wallets, cash and bags in plain sight to tempt thieves was challenged Monday in a lawsuit that claims the anti-crime tactic is unconstitutional.

Lawyers who filed the lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court said they'll seek class-action status so they can represent innocent individuals swept up in a practice meant to entice thieves.

Dubbed "Operation Lucky Bag," the police department places the items in high-theft areas such as subway platforms, park benches and cars, hoping to attract the attention of thieves interested in cash or cellphones.

The lawsuit seeks to have the tactic declared in conflict with existing law. The city law department said it was waiting to receive a copy of the lawsuit before commenting.

"Though the policy and practice is purportedly intended to catch thieves and deter crime, it is overbroad and treats honest individuals acting as good Samaritans as criminals," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Spiridon Argyros, a Queens resident. It said Argyros saw an unattended backpack on a sidewalk and picked up the bag, which had a wallet sticking out of one pocket.

According to the lawsuit, Argyros planned to bring the items to his apartment and identify the owner, but he was arrested and charged with petit larceny instead.

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