As if the NYPD's ongoing Operation "Lucky Bag" weren't headache enough, the city has recently run a variation on the theme against East Village deliverymen. The Times reports that last month undercover officers in the neighborhood went around offering to sell delivery guys stolen bikes for $40 bucks. Those that took the bait, got busted.
The police insist that in each of the stings (at least three stings have been confirmed) the officers made sure to mention that the bikes were stolen. But the arrested deliverymen beg to differ. “He didn’t say it was stolen,” Fredy Lopez-Velazquez, a busted deliveryman from S'Mac told the paper. “He just said, ‘Do you want a bike?... I feel it wasn’t fair.”
The sting, which we like to call "Operation Bark Up The Wrong Tree," came about because there has been an uptick in stolen bicycles in the East Village and after the successful sting against the Busy Bee Bike Shop last year, none of the other bike shops in the neighborhood are dimwitted enough to buy hot wheels. So instead the cops are entrapping poor people who of course would be tempted by the offer of a cheap, solid bike. Though that isn't why the cops say they targeted them, instead police spokesman Paul Browne told that Grey Lady that "officers heard from bicycle riders who expressed 'suspicion that messengers and deliverymen' had bought bicycles directly from thieves." Why they didn't try and catch the actual bike thieves with some easy to steal bikes? Who knows, but that does sound like a lot more work.
In theory the deliverymen can try and claim entrapment, but that will be tricky as state law requires that they prove the police "induced or encouraged" them to commit a crime they were not predisposed to commit. “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment,” the law states.
So let this be a lesson to you all. If a person tries to sell you a bike they say is stolen, don't buy it. Though the police say the operation is over for now, it could come back at any time. Explained Browne, “The command addresses conditions as they arise, but it’s not going to show its hand in advance.”