A New Hampshire police department that set up a holiday theft sting found mostly honest people who tried to return the bait to rightful owners.
Officers from the Special Enforcement Division in Manchester have been placing a purse with cash and a shopping bag containing an electronic item at various area shopping outlets, and waiting to see who tried to walk off with the items. The stings are meant to combat what is usually an increase in thefts during the holiday shopping season.
"We try to present the property in a manner that makes it immediately known to the individuals that it's not abandoned property and can be returned to the owner," said Lt. Maureen Tessier.
Tessier said that out of all the stings set up, most people returned the items to the stores or tried to find the rightful owner.
"Our officers aren't surprised. They're out there running surveillance for these large shopping areas and noticing people are quite honest," Tessier said. "We should all have that expectation that everyone's going to do the right thing."
According to the lieutenant, if someone finds lost property, it's their responsibility to take steps to return the items to their owner. Those who don't, face a class A misdemeanor charge with the potential of jail time, a fine, or both.
"We're not trying to induce anybody into committing crime," Tessier said. "We take every effort to try and make the items look abandoned. By putting them in shopping bags from the stores they're in front of. Once officers confront the individual trying to take the items, they then determine what their intent may or may not be."
So far, two Manchester shoppers have been arrested for theft.
Last week, Zachary Brisson, 21, was caught trying to take a purse filled with money from a Wal-Mart parking lot. And in a sting set up in front of a Manchester Gamestop, officers apprehended Alexander Ramasci, 23, attempting to take a purse with $50 in it as well as a DVD player, left in the Gamestop parking lot.
Both men were charged with theft of lost/mislaid property.
The stings will remain in place through Christmas, Tessier said.