The NY Police department is leaving purses around the city with a little bit of cash, a couple of credit cards, and an ID to have it returned (link). Don’t return the bag, and you get arrested. Although laws state people have 10 days to return lost property, it seems the NYPD are being a little bit over zealous in their prosecution of those who pick up the bags.
The idea behind the operation is that criminals are more likely to pick up bags and not return them, so this “sting” helps flush them out of public areas.
As the article discusses though, about ½ of those who pick them up and do not return them had no prior criminal record. More importantly what is the opportunity cost of this sting?