If you saw a wallet lying on the ground, what would you do? A lot of people might, out of curiosity, pick it up to examine it. They might even walk away with it. But if they did, they could find themselves surrounded by police and facing arrest.
This happened to Carlos Alayo who picked up a wallet he saw laying on a New York City subway platform. When he went to get on the train, police stopped him. WNBC.com explains:
The 32-year-old had been ensnared in Operation Lucky Bag, an initiative from the New York City Police Department to lay decoys -- shopping bags, purses, backpacks or wallets -- around the subway system under the watchful gaze of officers who wait to see what passersby will do. The decoys often contain real credit cards issued under pseudonyms to the police department. Theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a felony that could lead to jail time.
Police said that Operation Lucky Bag led to 101 arrests last year. Those individuals had a combined total of 761 prior arrests last year, said police spokesman 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 police," Browne said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has complained about Operation Lucky Bag, suggesting that there must be better uses of police time. I didn't even realize it was illegal to take a wallet laying on the ground. I would try to find out who it belonged to and return it to them, but I wouldn't have thought it was illegal not to do this.