Undercover Cops Pretend to Sleep on the Subway, Sell Stolen Bikes

By
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The next time some sleepy guy is drooling on your shoes on the F train, don't punch him in the face because he might be a cop. According to Metro, there are between 50 and 200 plainclothes officers on the subway at any one time and many of them are sleeping. Well, they're pretending to be sleeping in hopes of baiting would-be thieves into stealing their iPhone, BlackBerry, or other electronic thing. When crooks try to pilfer the goods, the cops spring into action. Just last week police busted three men trying to take smartphones off of undercover cops, the NYPD said. It did not, however, say how many phones were lost when the cops failed to wake up.

Police have also taken to play-acting lately in the East Village, where they've begun a targeted stolen bike sting in the face of a recent rash of thefts, particularly of $1,000-plus bikes. Here's how it works: An undercover cop asks a delivery guy if he wants to buy a stolen bike on the cheap. If he bites, they arrest. Critics say the practice is something a little too close to entrapment, and isn't exactly addressing the root of the problem, the actual bike thieves. At least one of the men who was arrested — an illegal immigrant now living in fear of deportation, who had his own bike pilfered a week later — speaks limited English and argues he didn't realize he was purchasing a stolen bike. He did, however, manage to talk the cop down from $40 to $20. Impressive. This man shouldn't be delivering food, he should be negotiating the debt deal.

NYPD transit police are undercover, underground [Metro via VV]
Bike Sting Operation Draws Arrests, and Criticism [NYT]