A 49-year-old tourist from an Atlanta suburb is claiming NYPD officers wrongly arrested him after he found and took cash from an unclaimed purse in 2011.
Yakov Dubin claims he was walking through Central Park and bent down to tie his shoes when he discovered an “old and dirty purse sitting on the ground underneath the bench.”
Court papers say Dubin could not locate any identification and therefore took the $27 of cash in order to give it to a park ranger.
A group of plainclothes officers then approached Dubin and asked him if he had taken any money from the purse. Dubin attempted to explain his situation, telling officers he intended to give the cash to park officials.
The officers arrested Dubin anyway, as a part of “Operation Lucky Bag,” the controversial police practice in which officers place valuable items in clear sight in order to bait criminals who try to pilfer the goods.
As Dubin was handcuffed, he tells The New York Post his 17-year-old daughter started hysterically crying. He then says an officer told her, “Don’t worry, we’re going to put your daddy in a good jail,” and then shared a laugh with his fellow officers.
He is now suing the city for $1 million. Dubin, a Russian immigrant, also likened the arrest to arrests in the Soviet Union, saying the only difference being Soviet officer would have “[beaten] the crap out of me.”
Department spokesman Paul Browne defended the police operation. “Someone who opens a bag that doesn’t belong to him, stuffs $27 in his pocket and walks away is no innocent,” he said. “Any law-abiding person who has had their property stolen from a park bench or blanket will be happy to know that the NYPD is out there combating such thefts.”
This isn’t the first time the operation has come under fire.
Just two months prior to Dubin’s arrest, then Assemblywoman Grace Meng denounced the initiative.
“This practice by the NYPD just discourages people from seeing something and saying something,” Meng said. “It also discourages people from being Good Samaritans.”