The NYPD has this thing they do called Operation Lucky Bag. Officers leave these satchels or duffelbags full of cash and valuable objects in public spaces around the city. If someone picks one up, they’re arrested soon after on the assumption that the person will not seek to return the bag to its proper owner.
The NYPD’s defense is that it’s an efficient means of detaining lifelong larcenists and thus deterring theft in normally crowded areas. How is this legal? Who knows. But that’s the question being asked this week in several lawsuits filed against what could become the NYPD’s newest legal headache.
The lawsuits are led by those that argue the practice leads cops to arrest innocent people. Deidre Myers is one of them.
In her case, Myers and her daughter were sitting on a stoop in the Bronx one day when a black car drove up with cops in hot pursuit. A man jumped out of the car and ran, leaving the door wide open. Myers went to check the car and found one of those special bags sitting in the front seat. Before she even had the chance to touch it, another van full of cops pulled up and forced Myers and her daughter on the ground. It was all a trick–one that’s been played in the Bronx for almost 20 years now.
Myers fought charges of stolen property and petty larceny for two years before Judge Linda Poust Lopez acquitted her. The judge’s reasoning? Following down this case’s path “would greatly damage the confidence and trust of the public in the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, and rightly so.” And that sentiment speaks volumes about the practice as a whole.
Now, Myers is taking her case to the city. Because eventually something needs to replace stop-and-frisk in the courtroom.