Most of the time this is a law enforcement issue; using “bait” such as cars that are actually remote-controlled to catch car thieves, undercover officers pretending to be prostitutes to catch johns, or pretending to be kids on-line to “catch a predator”, etc.
Now, the standard defense against “entrapment” is that the criminals would surely have committed the same crime anyway against a real target.
Yet for example, the “bait car” strategy at least as shown on TV (which again I realize is NOT always real) often involves ridiculous scenarios of plum cars being left with the driver’s side door wide open, key in the ignition, engine running. It seemed LEOs in “tougher” neighborhoods often used more realistic scenarios that would only attract hardened car thieves, not just naïve teenagers looking for a joyride. Indeed, in one such episodes, no one took the bait and the cops actually had to send an undercover in to “steal” the bait car himself since the operation was ending for that day.
I have also read (though it WAS in Wikipedia so I don’t know how accurate) that one US strategy to find insurgents in Iraq was “drop baiting” by deliberately leaving caches of weapons where people would find them and try to take them, one accusation (again, per Wikipedia so I take it with a grain of salt) was that this was being used NOT as a strategy to actually identify insurgents, but as a way to excuse deliberate killings of civilians, that the soldiers were indiscriminately killing anyone who happened across these caches, and getting off scot-free because technically, their victims were “armed” at the time of the incidents.
Even if we don’t agree with the extreme conspiracy theories that US soldiers have such a blood lust for killing innocent Iraqis that they would go to such lengths to provide excuses to engage in killing for the sake of killing, I think we could agree that there are “bait” scenarios that do cross the line into entrapment.
But even if “bait” strategies don’t cross the legal line into entrapment, could they still be morally invalid?