Nine months ago, a New York City police decoy program called Operation Lucky Bag was shut down by prosecutors and judges who were concerned that it was sweeping up the civic-minded alongside those bent on larceny. Shopping bags, backpacks, and purses were left in the subway system, then watched by undercover officers who arrested anyone who took the items and walked past an officer in uniform without reporting the discovery.
Now, the New York Times says that a new version of the operation has started to catch people in public places outside the subways, and at much higher stakes. The bags now are salted with real American Express cards, issued under pseudonyms to the Police Department. Because the theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a Class E felony, those convicted could face sentences of up to four years. Charges in the first round of Operation Lucky Bag were nearly all petty larceny, a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.