Thieves are getting stung left and right, but not by bees

By Joe Vargas

You leave your bicycle locked in a rack only to return and find the lock has been cut and the bicycle stolen.

Or, more likely, you’ve been waiting for that special package ordered online to be delivered. You get the email notification it’s been delivered. You rush home, only your package is nowhere to be found.

You’ve fallen prey to a porch pirate.

In a survey conducted by the Shorr Packaging Corp., 31 percent of the respondents said they had personally experienced package theft. That’s a lot of people getting ripped off.

In any case, you’ve been the victim of theft in both circumstances. It’s no fun being victimized. Feelings of shock, fear and anger are not uncommon.

At least one of your thoughts often turns to, “Where are the police when I need them?”

Police officers really enjoy catching bad guys. In fact, for most cops, it’s what they live for. Catching crooks red-handed provides a lot of self-satisfaction.

But the adage you can’t be everywhere all the time rings true.

One of the ways to make sure thieves and other crooks get their just deserts is to conduct sting operations. A sting is a law enforcement operation where police officers create opportunities for crooks to be crooks.

This includes putting a bike on a rack then staking it out waiting for a would-be thief to take off with it. Works almost every time.

Another sting used successfully around the holidays is the Grinch buster. Officers park a car in a shopping center parking lot loaded with packages and then wait for a crook to take advantage of the opportunity.

In both cases, once the crime is committed the police jump out and surprise the suspects. The looks on their faces are usually priceless.

Isn’t this entrapment, you might wonder? No, it isn’t.

The legal standard for entrapment is quite high. Officers would have to somehow pressure the suspect to commit the crime or put the thought to commit it in his or her mind.

Recently, the Arcadia Police Department took the innovative step of placing parcels on the front porches of residences. The packages were equipped with GPS devices that allowed the officers to track them down after being taken. According to a CBS news story, the Arcadia PD made over a hundred arrests using this method.

Some privacy advocates have concerns about police using GPS-tracking technology without a court order. All I can say is, “Really?” I just don’t get how some people can be more concerned with violating the privacy rights of a thief than the people who are being victimized.

There’s a big difference between secretly planting a wiretap and just trying to keep track of property you already own. I guess that would mean the “find phone” app would be considered a privacy violation as well.

It should be noted that in most cases, the bad guys who get caught will probably just get a citation.

Doesn’t seem right, does it?

I’m sure you could put a more expensive item in the package. In California, it would have to have a value of over $950. That’s a pretty expensive piece of bait. But not unheard of.

There have been a number of operations over the years involving car-theft stings where vehicles have been used as bait. They are worth well over $950.

I know, it doesn’t sound fair, does it? Allowing a poor unsuspecting suspect to be hoodwinked into stealing a high-dollar item just to be charged with a felony.

Whatever the case, you can be assured law enforcement agencies are continually finding innovative ways to put bad guys in jail.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.