my fucking tush.
Yes, NOPD has come up and defended us by baiting and trapping homeless folks: (and I’m giving you all of the report before the Pigs haul me off to jail)
“Editor’s Note: This story begins a three-part series on how police and prosecutors are spending public resources seeking lengthy prison sentences for non-violent, low-level crimes.
NEW ORLEANS – A pack of Kool cigarettes, a can of Budweiser and a box of Boston Baked Beans sat on the dashboard of an unlocked car with the windows rolled down at 1732 Canal St.
Somewhere nearby two New Orleans Police Department officers watched and waited for someone to reach into the bait car and snatch the items.
They wouldn’t have to wait long, as the police parked the car just one block away from a homeless encampment under the Claiborne Avenue overpass, where dozens of desperate, hungry and addicted people lived in a makeshift village of tents.
The first arrest was made at 12:25 p.m. June 10 when police say the initial suspect took the bait and stole a can of beer. The second arrest was made at 4:05 p.m. when police say a second suspect took the cigarettes, beer and candy.
For stealing less than $6 in items, the police charged the two homeless men with simple burglary, a felony that can carry up to 12 years in prison. Neither suspect had any prior arrests in Orleans Parish.
A month later, the men remain in Orleans Parish Prison awaiting court dates and the possibility they will spend the better part of the next decade in state prison.
“I don’t know what the policing justification is for such an action,” said Pamela Metzger, associate professor of law at Tulane University Law School. “But on a fundamental human level, it smacks of a meanness, a pettiness, a spitefulness that has no place in a city as broken as this one. It’s a way of manufacturing offenses that may not have otherwise existed.”
At a time when the number of homicides in New Orleans continues to rise to record numbers, many question whether a sting operation designed to entice homeless people to commit felonies is the best use of public resources.
Not only does it take police officers off the street, but it clogs the courts and forces public defenders and the district attorney to use their limited resources and manpower to litigate “trivial offenses” instead of focusing efforts on more serious cases like homicide, said Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
“People are still dying left and right and yet we’re playing games with baked beans and Kool cigarettes,” Quigley said. “The police officers who did this should be personally embarrassed and their superiors and the elected officials who knew about this should go to confession.”
The NOPD did not respond to requests for comment, but Superintendent Warren Riley has previously defended the practice of arresting people for minor crimes as a useful way of catching habitual offenders.
At a legislative committee hearing in October, Riley said officers will arrest someone for a minor offense such as trespassing if that person has a history of burglary arrests.
But during the car sting, officers not only arrested six people with no prior arrests, they also charged them with felonies.
The “car burglary sting,” as one police report called the operation, took place June 10 and 11 in three locations and netted at least eight arrests. Of those eight arrests, six of the suspects had no prior offenses in Orleans Parish, one suspect was convicted of automated teller machine fraud in 1999 and a second had two drug possession convictions.
Police charged all eight suspects, two of whom were listed as homeless, with felonious simple burglary instead of a lesser misdemeanor that would have carried a small fine and, at most, a few months in prison.
Sting or entrapment?
It is not uncommon for police to conduct a “catch and release” operation in search of people with outstanding warrants for violent offenses such as murder, rape or armed robbery, Metzger said.
“That makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is holding these folks on felony charges if there’s not some other serious charge out there.”
Judson Mitchell, pro bono coordinator for the Loyola Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, called into question the legality of such a sting, claiming it could be classified as entrapment.
It also could violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by targeting a specific group of people, said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana.
It’s no coincidence the NOPD specifically chose as bait Kool cigarettes, a product known to be favored by African-Americans, and beer to attract the homeless, many of whom are alcoholics, she said.
No one could offer an explanation why the NOPD chose to use Boston Baked Beans as part of the sting.
“They’re going after a certain class of people to encourage them to commit petty crimes in order to get those people out of the general population,” Esman said. “What they’re doing, essentially, is prosecuting people for being hungry, poor and homeless. But you can’t arrest someone for being hungry, poor and homeless. So they said, ‘We’ll make them break the law.’ You create temptation and then punish them for being tempted. Not only is it bad police work of questionable legality, but it’s also really bad policy because it’s a huge waste of taxpayer resources.”
The district attorney has 60 days to accept or refuse the charges against a suspect. It costs $23.39 per day to house an inmate in Orleans Parish Prison. If it takes the district attorney 60 days to decide the fate of the eight people arrested in the sting, the cost to the taxpayer for incarcerating them in parish prison would be $11,227.20.
Should anyone be convicted, the cost of housing an inmate in state prison for one year is $14,815.
“This doesn’t help society because it creates a revolving door of people who are on and off the street without doing anything to help rehabilitate them or give them the skills they need to get off the street,” Esman said.
Mike Miller is director of supportive housing placement for Unity of Greater New Orleans, a homeless advocacy group. He called the actions of the NOPD “extremely disappointing.”
“They’re allocating these resources to prosecute the homeless as opposed to protecting them,” Miller said. “We’ve been trying to get police protection at Canal and Claiborne for six months as a deterrent for the people who have been preying on the homeless and we’ve had very little cooperation.”
Effectiveness in question
So the question remains: Why would the NOPD conduct such a sting and charge six people with no prior arrests with felonies for stealing planted cigarettes, beer and candy?
Stings are generally conducted to deter criminals in high-crime areas, but there was only one burglary, two auto thefts and no incidents of simple theft in the vicinity of the homeless encampment between May 24 and June 23, according to NOPD crime statistics.
During that same period the French Quarter and Central Business District had 45 simple thefts, 25 auto thefts and three burglaries. Yet there are no records to indicate the NOPD set up a bait car in those neighborhoods.
Whatever the reason behind the sting, the only thing it will accomplish is wasting public resources at a time when they cannot be spared, Quigley said.
“The police can charge them with felonies if they want, but there’s not a judge or jury in the city that will count that as a felony. So all it will do is use up the resources of the DA, the public defender, the judges and everybody else.
“It’s like mosquito control with nuclear weapons. The sad thing is that the cops are sitting at this corner hidden when what they ought to do is stand on the corner in plain sight and protect everybody instead of attacking the people with the least resources and the most mental and physical problems. This is Jay Leno material and another embarrassment to the city.”•”
This pisses me off to the fucking Nth degree. I see the cars with blacked-out windows and guys with AK-47s rolling down our street everyday, and the pigs (yes, I’m going back to the ’60s lingo) are fucking with shit that they set the stage for.This cannot stand.
I now have no confidence or trust in our police department. Whether this shit comes from that fat Warren Riley or some insane Ward commander, I don’t care. The entire NOPD must be purged. “To serve and protect” means nothing to these uniformed thugs.
We have the highest murder rate in the country and these pigs are going after the most helpless of folks instead of standing up and doing their real J.O.B.. These fuckmooks are the laziest and most cowardly shits I have ever seen. (And I did MP duty when in the Military… I know the job) The only law enforcement I can trust now is the National Guard here.
Disband ALL of the NOPD and use the Guard until our city can build a true police force.
(Sidepiece- Betts was pulled over for a non-event last year and I was the one being fucked with because the Black cop had a “problem” with me being me and my ID having a different kind of name from my real persona. I had to stand behind our car, in the glare of a spotlight, and answer questions barked over a loudspeaker. It was fucking humiliating, and you Gentle Readers know that I do not forget this kind of stuff.)
And this ultimately falls on our bald-headed Mayor, No-See-Um Ray Nagin. His job is to work for the people of the city, and he has let the thugs, both NOPD and the Crack-heads, run bat-shit insane wild.
I now go to prep myself for the coming incarceration by the bullshit, dickless, chickenshit NOPD. (and stock up my hidden room)