Take the bait? NYPD anti-theft tactics criticized

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According to court papers and to Myers’ account, she and her daughter Kenya, then a 15-year-old high school student, were sitting on the stoop of their building when the sting unfolded

“It seemed like everybody in the Bronx was out that night,” she said in an interview monitored by Vik Pawar, her attorney in her federal lawsuit.

The summer scene was interrupted by a bit of theater staged by police: A dark car raced down the block before stopping. Another vehicle carrying plainclothes officers wasn’t far behind. When the driver got out and ran, the officers gave chase, yelling, “Stop! Police!” her suit says.

Myers’ daughter, seeing that the driver left the car door open, went over and peered inside to see personal items that included what looked like a bundle of cash — in reality, a dollar bill wrapped around pieces of newspaper. The girl had called her mother over when another set of police officers suddenly pulled up in a van and forced them to the ground, according to Myers’ account.

“Get on the floor? For what?” Myers recalled telling the officers.

The officers took them into custody, even though they never touched anything inside the car, the suit says. While entering a stationhouse in handcuffs, Myers spotted the driver of the car standing outside, smoking a cigarette. It dawned on her that he was an undercover with a starring role in the sting — a suspicion supported by the court ruling.

“I thought I was in ‘The Twilight Zone,'” she said.

The girl ultimately wasn’t charged. But her mother spent more than two years fighting charges of petty larceny and possession of stolen property.

A spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney’s office conceded that the bait car had been left unlocked and said prosecutors would not appeal the judge’s ruling. He declined to comment further.

Though defense attorneys in the Bronx say there have been a few other cases involving bait cars and pretend police pursuits, the tactic hasn’t drawn much attention outside the borough.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and a lucky bag critic, said she wasn’t aware that police were using decoy cars until asked about the Myers case.

“It’s such a bizarre and extreme attempt to set somebody up,” Lieberman said. “It’s like lucky bag on steroids.”

 

 

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