Wednesday, December 5, 2007

WARNING TO GOOD SAMARITANS:BEWARE!


Man who picks up wallet to help feels discriminated against by cops
BY CHRISTINA BOYLEDAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, December 5th 2007, 4:00 AM
Savulich/News

Carlos Alayo discusses his ordeal with undercover police last Wednesday after he spotted an abandoned wallet on subway platform bench at Grand Central.
He was trying to do a good deed - but ended up feeling like a common criminal.
Freelance photographer Carlos Alayo says he was late for a business meeting when he spotted a wallet lying abandoned on a subway platform bench.

He picked it up and put it in his bag, with every intention of later finding its owner, but as he rushed to board the 6 train last Wednesday at Grand Central, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Where's the wallet?" the undercover cop asked him.
Alayo, 32, is one of the latest New Yorkers ensnared in the NYPD's clampdown on thieves - known as Operation Lucky Bag.

After giving the officers the wallet, he was frisked, made to put his hands against the wall and hand over his identification so they could do a criminal history check.
"It wasn't even crossing my mind what was inside [the wallet]. I was trying to get to my appointment," Alayo said.

"It made me feel like I was a criminal, like I did something wrong. The look on [the cop's] face, it was like he already knew that I was arrested.
"He said, 'Don't lie to me, just tell me how many times you've been arrested.'
"That just stabbed me right there in the heart."
Alayo, who is from Peru, felt the eyes of all the rush-hour commuters on him as he was searched by officers.

"I was so ashamed, my face went red and people were looking," he said.
"God knows what they were thinking, a Spanish guy on the platform surrounded by cops. It made me feel very uneasy inside.
"I've been in this country 17 years and not felt discriminated against until that day," Alayo said.

The decoy operation involves planting shopping bags, purses, backpacks and wallets around the subway system, where unsuspecting passersby are watched to see how they react.
The plants used to be worth a few hundred dollars at most.
Now they contain real American Express Cards, issued under pseudonyms to the Police Department.

Theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a Class E felony, so anyone cops believe has the intention of stealing the decoy wallet or bag could face up to four years behind bars.
"Even property which is lost or mislaid can be stolen," said NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne. "A person who takes or finds property which is lost or mislaid has a legal obligation to make efforts to return the property to its owner, which can include delivering the property to the police."

Last year, the NYPD's Transit Bureau arrested 101 individuals with prior arrest histories through the decoy program. Those 101 people had a combined total of 761 prior arrests, Browne said. On at least 178 other occasions, the bag left on the bench or seat was turned over to proper authorities.

Alayo says he has no criminal record - save for one summons several years ago for public urination. The cops let him go last week when they found no outstanding warrants - or reason to charge him.
The NYPD is under fire for targeting minorities for its stop-and-frisk policies, and the New York Civil Liberties Union believes Operation Lucky Bag needs to be abandoned.
"Policies like this are hellbent on stopping people from being good Samaritans," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
"A process like this is a pretext for racial profiling. I'm sure the NYPD has far more sophisticated tactics at their disposal than dropping wallets on the train."
cboyle@nydailynews.com
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