"It made me feel like a criminal, like I did something wrong. The look on [the cop's] face, it was like he knew I was already arrested," stated Carlos Alayo.
The freelance photographer stated that he was late for a business meeting when he spotted a wallet lying abandoned on a subway bench. Alayo picked it up and put it in his bag, hoping to later find it's owner as he rushed to board the 6 train at Grand Central Station, New York City NY, Wednesday. Just as he was boarding the train, he felt a hand on his shoulder and the undercover officer asked him where the wallet was.
Alayo, 32, had just become the latest New Yorker to be caught in the NYPD's crackdown on thieves in their operation called Operation Lucky Bag. After he handed over the wallet, he was frisked, made to stand with his hands against the wall and wait for police to run a check of his criminal history. Alayo, an immigrant from Peru, not only had to listen to the officer repeatedly tell him not to lie and admit how many times he had been arrested but he stated that he was red from embaressement.
He added that he has been in the U S for 17 years and had never felt discrimination until that day. The decoy operation he had been caught up in has the NYPD planting puses, backpacks, wallets and shopping bags around the subway. The items used to contain only a few hundred dollars but they now also include real American Expres cards issued to the Police Department. Theft of a credit card is an Class E felony and anyone the police believe was stealing the card will face up to four years in jail.
While their program has made numerous arrests of repeat offendors it also may have the effect of discouraging good samaritans from turning in the lost items. I can see the point to that as well, in these days of combatting terrorism, New Yorkers may choose to leave an abandoned bag alone and not risk arrest and in doing so, leave the opportunity for a terrorist to leave an item anywhere they choose.
As for Alayo, he was let go a week later when police found that he had no warrents or that there was an reason for arresting him. I wouldn't doubt that the next time he thinks he will do a good deed like that, he may well just walk on by the lost item.