Entrapment or Justice?

In a controversial crime operation in New York, police plant wallets on subways.

Dec. 6, 2007 — -- What would you do if you found a wallet or a bag lying in the subway or on the street?

While riding in the New York subway, Carlos Alayo found a wallet sitting on an empty bench. In a hurry to get to a meeting, Alayo picked up the wallet and said he was going to check it for ID later. Before he knew it he was being frisked by police.

It turns out the wallet was planted by New York City police as part of "Operation Lucky Bag," a decoy operation involving planted wallets and undercover officers watching how bystanders react. The new initiative has outraged many civilians who feel that the police are unfairly targeting them.

As Alayo boarded his next train, with the wallet now in his bag, he felt a tap on his back. It was the undercover New York police officer who planted the wallet.

The officer ordered Alayo to put his hands up and face the wall. According to Alayo, the officer padded him down and said, "Don't lie to me. How many times have you been arrested?"

Alayo does not have a criminal record and was just the latest New Yorker caught in Operation Lucky Bag.


The controversial new crime initiative is outraging New Yorkers who think the cops should be doing better things with their time than setting up civilians.

"The police have no business setting people up who are being good Samaritans on the subways," said Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

But the NYPD defends the practice. "Entrapment is forcing you to commit a crime, putting you in a position of giving you no choice. And here you have choices all along the way," said New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

The police expected Alayo to turn the wallet in, but ultimately he was let go because he hadn't removed cash from the wallet.