NYPD sting tactics for catching perpetrators of petty thefts is under intense criticism after an allegedly innocent woman was set up and arrested.
Three years ago, Deirdre Myers, 40, was sitting on the stoop of her apartment building with her then 15-year-old daughter when they saw a man jump out of a car in front of them, leaving the door open. According to Ann Mauer, Myers’ attorney, Myers’ daughter then went over to the car where she spotted a wad of cash and called her mother over. Soon after, Myers and her daughter were surrounded by police and Myers was charged with petty theft.
The incident, according to Myers’ lawyers, was an extravagant attempt to set her up and charge her for a crime she never intended to commit. She’s not the only one, however, as undercover police all over the city purposely leave personal items such as wallets, phones and tablets unattended in order to catch petty thieves.
Though the tactics do sweep up innocent people from time to time, the NYPD explains that it has been a valuable practice that has helped them catch career criminals and deter petty thefts in public areas.
Myers’ case, however, was an extreme circumstance. Usually, a plainclothes officer strategically places a handbag and briefly steps away or diverts his or her attention. If the bait is taken, and the suspect passes up the chance to return the item or give it to a nearby uniformed officer, then the suspect is arrested.
The NYPD says that the bait tactic helps deter crimes in areas such as Grand Central Station or Central Park. The police do wait a little longer before arresting a suspect now, though, because of an increase of cases such as Myers’, where all she did was look at the cash before the police swarmed her.