Is it wrong to "bait" people into crime?


#1

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?


#2

In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit. It is a conduct that is generally discouraged is against the law, in many jurisdictions.

Other times there can be legitimate law enforcement reasons. Like in a sting operation, such as when Martin Luther King would give a speech in the deep south and the FBI would be ready to arrest any KKK or other bigots that come to attack him.

These are areas that require discernment. In some cases like King exercising his right to Free Speech. Other times there is a lot of gray area.


#3

The “armed Iraqi” example not withstanding, there are probably “crime-bait” scenarios which are immoral. The “bait car” one isn’t, though.


#4

I understand there are specific legal criteria to determine “entrapment”. But certainly, many legal actions are still immoral.

Consider how, for example, even women who had no intention of doing such, are often accused of somehow “enticing” men into sinning sexually by dressing “immodestly”. Now, undercover LEOs posing as prostitutes certainly ARE enticing men into sexual sin, even if the men get arrested before actual sexual acts take place, per Catholic thought, their even lusting after these LEOs is still a sin, perhaps even a mortal sin.

The same can be applied to those posing as children in “to catch a predator” sting operations. It may be legal, but does that make it moral?


#5

It is almost laughable that one would debate the morality of baiting vs the actual act.:rolleyes:

In your prostitute example it is illegal to proposition a woman for sex in trade of money. So regardless of dress or corner of location the criminal is committing a crime, not the bait.

Is there a difference to you between a joy ride and a hardened car thief. Either way a car is stolen…


#6

I would guess that the “perpetrator” would not be prosecuted for having an indecent conversation with a law enforcement professional, but it may convince a judge to issue a warrant for search or wiretap, which could then lead to the discovery of evidence of actual crimes against children. Then they could charge him with real (not baited) crimes.


#7

I could say exactly the same thing about the crime of rape. Yet, many Catholics, even on this very forum, have stated that in certain rape cases, the victim is also guilty of sin, even when such victim did NOT deliberately bait the rapist into lusting after her.

Is there a difference to you between a joy ride and a hardened car thief. Either way a car is stolen…

A joy ride in which the thief only rides around in the car for a few hours before ditching it, is pretty harmless, assuming the criminal doesn’t crash the car out of poor driving skills.

My point was that a bait car, unless used in a very sophisticated way, doesn’t seem to do much to catch actual hardened car thieves, they are way too savvy to fall for that, unless they are so greedy they let greed over-ride their street smarts.

And it is very possible that a kid who wouldn’t go to the trouble of breaking into or “hot-wiring” a car to go joyriding, would still be tempted enough by a car left with the engine running and doors wide open to decide to commit such a crime. Hence, it seems that for some people caught in bait car situations, they would not have committed a crime if not for the bait car being there as, well, bait.

Of course, this is assuming that the TV show “Bait Car” actually depicts RL bait car operations, I realize just because something is shown on TV doesn’t make it true.


#8

So, what do you think a sting operation, such as when Martin Luther King would give a speech in the deep south and the FBI would be ready to arrest any KKK or other bigots that come to attack him.

Would you say that was OK, gray area, or definitely immoral?


#9

I assume that in such operations, Dr. King would have given the speech anyway, and certainly there is nothing immoral about giving a speech. And if the FBI had NOT protected MLK in such a situation, that would also be wrong.

(And AFAIK the King family wound up being compensated for Dr. King’s death by the US government because as it turned out, they were actually NOT doing that great a job of protecting him, certainly J.E. Hoover didn’t exactly get along with him.)

However, I must admit that I was disturbed by the recent shootings at the “Draw Muhammad” contest. I know that was not a deliberate attempt to bait ISIS sympathizers into the open so they could be taken down, but certainly it COULD have been.

There just seems to be this general idea among some law-enforcement types that ANY strategy that targets crime is justified, as if criminals have no rights. But last I heard, “the ends justify the means” is NOT Church teaching.


#10

Quote:

A joy ride in which the thief only rides around in the car for a few hours before ditching it, is pretty harmless, assuming the criminal doesn’t crash the car out of poor driving skills.

Well, that is such a comfort to someone who’s car is stolen :(:frowning:

A crime, is a crime, is a crime, period. A stolen car is a stolen car, period.

A person who engages the services of a prostitute, engages the services of a prostitute, period – whether that prostitute is a police decoy or not. They weren’t out looking for a quart of milk at the local grocery store!

Why is that so hard to comprehend?


#11

Look, I’m not stating the criminals are off the hook for being criminals. I just want people to be consistent. Hopefully, no one who’s mocking my questions are going to be posting any time soon that rape victims are also guilty of sin, and deflect criticism by stating “of course the rapist is still a criminal, but his sin doesn’t erase her sin”.


#12

There are several types of criminal activity that almost necessitate a sting/bait/or deception strategy to apprehend the offenders. Alas, such is the state of the criminal mind. Prostitution for example. Both illegal and immoral but the actual catching of the perpetrators of this crime, both john and Jane, almost always have to be done by using some of the methods you rail against as immoral. John is not complaining that Jane has committed a crime and vice versa (vice pun intended.) The police do not embark on these ventures that usually involve great risk just because they need to fill jails or generate revenue or even curb boredom on a long shift. No, these are undertaken in an attempt to help an area that is plagued by numerous crimes, many violent. When a bait car is used, they use popular cars that are stolen, Camery’s and such that they would have no other way of catching these criminals. Since a drive and chop or a drive and ditch are almost impossible to solve using conventional methods. Not to mention the morality of the inefficiency of attempting to solve these crimes the long way.

I suppose you think that a thirty five MPH speed limit is immoral because most speedometers only are in increments of 10s. It is not immoral.

Car theft, pedophilia, prostitution and especially the drug trade is almost unenforceable without sting operations. The fact is that criminals commit these crimes and they need to be apprehended.
Ironically it is you who are coming close to blaming a victim with your logic. Because if a sting is immoral then certainly flirting or seductive dance or dress is too. Perhaps you think there is some moral culpability if someone were to leave their car door open in a neighborhood I doubt you would spend much time in. Do those people deserve to be protected or not?


#13

Got any link to CAF member making these kinds of statements?


#14

I am actually NOT railing against any of these methods, or stating that I think they are definitely immoral. I am ASKING if they are, or if there are cases where such a strategy CAN be immoral. After all, this is the Moral Theology forum.

I assume that if a soldier really did just want an excuse for murdering Iraqis wholesale and used the “Drop Bait” strategy to accomplish his aim of murdering people regardless of their “guilt” in terms of being insurgents, and getting away with it, this would NOT be moral. If the strategy actually was used to identify insurgents who do indeed pose a threat, then that would be completely different.

Ironically it is you who are coming close to blaming a victim with your logic. Because if a sting is immoral then certainly flirting or seductive dance or dress is too. Perhaps you think there is some moral culpability if someone were to leave their car door open in a neighborhood I doubt you would spend much time in. Do those people deserve to be protected or not?

Again, I am not stating that such people don’t deserve protection. But I have noticed that SOME people (who apparently have not visited this topic) do indeed assign moral culpability to rape victims, or people who flash money in “bad” neighborhoods, or leave car doors open, etc., even when they obviously were NOT deliberately trying to entice criminals into committing crimes.

So, it seems that according to the same logic, LEOs who DO deliberately engage in such behaviors to bait criminals, have moral culpability as well.


#15

I don’t remember any either, :o.


#16

It is not immoral if done morally. :shrug: I have a hard time understanding your point or motivation for questioning it. Surely this is not the moral issue that is biting at your conscience? Is it for a criminal justice assignment, or just a bored afternoon of watching “tru tv.”


#17

There is a whole topic on “Victim Blaming” that I recall you posted in yourself, where some posters justified, well, victim blaming:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=958578

OP by Barricade:

Your teenage child is out at night and they walk home through what they know is a bad neighborhood and they get mugged, is the parent in the wrong if they put some blame on their child for this (for knowingly going through a bad part of town at night)? Simply walking through a neighborhood doesn’t excuse the mugger, but at the same time you might think a parent would expect their child to know better to ensure their own safety and be upset with them for possibly being irresponsible or reckless.

Post #3 by on the hill:

I also think it’s inevitable for people to assign some blame to the victim. And that’s not always a bad thing.

Post #4, by Zachary:

IMO, pointing out “the blame” on the victim isn’t about blaming the victim, but encouraging others to think/act differently.

In your example of rape, I don’t think those who say the girl should not have worn the skimpy outfit (or gotten extremely drunk at Spring Break, or invited a strange male over etc.) is morally responsible for her rape. She may share the blame in some way, but, moral culpability would suggest that she intended to be raped. Rather, she’d be morally responsible for the actions taken regardless of if she was raped or not (ie -binge drinking, the intention to engage in extra/pre-marital sex etc.)

Post #6 by St Francis:

It is wrong to steal. But isn’t it also wrong–a different wrong–to tempt someone by leaving some cash on the seat of an unlocked car? It is wrong to rape, but isn’t it also wrong to dress in a sexually provocative way?

So the issue is that there are more wrongs being committed, not dividing up the wrong of one act. It is 100% wrong to rape. If the woman dressed in a way to incite lust, got drunk, and behaved provocatively, she also did something wrong, but it was her own separate sin; it doesn’t take guilt away from the rapist. If a woman dressed and bahved modestly and someone raped her, then there was only one wrong done.

Granted, this last poster later backed away from the statements. But it seems that according to his logic, if an undercover LEO dressed in a way to incite lust and got hit up for sex in exchange for cash, BOTH the LEO and john committed wrongs.


#18

Ok, here’s one I think was immoral-

ATF/Justice department encouraged gun store owners to sell weapons to known as well as suspected smugglers working for the cartels and then didn’t make any effort to track the weapons or interdict them before they were used in crimes. Several hundred people have been killed by those weapons so far.


#19

A woman wearing a short skirt may be immorally acting apart from the act of rape. They are two separate things. To link one to the other is being ignorant of the actual separate circumstances and culpability of the parties.

Do you think it is immoral to leave your car door unlocked in a bad neighborhood. Or just not smart? The answer is extremely relevant.


#20

I assume that in such operations, Dr. King would have given the speech anyway, and certainly there is nothing immoral about giving a speech. And if the FBI had NOT protected MLK in such a situation, that would also be wrong.

(And AFAIK the King family wound up being compensated for Dr. King’s death by the US government because as it turned out, they were actually NOT doing that great a job of protecting him, certainly J.E. Hoover didn’t exactly get along with him.)

There just seems to be this general idea among some law-enforcement types that ANY strategy that targets crime is justified, as if criminals have no rights. But last I heard, “the ends justify the means” is NOT Church teaching.
[/quote]

I agree completely agree. If we are to have fair laws, they must be applied equitably. So, we have to create laws and regulations that apply, not base on the person, but on what is being done.
To do that we need to see if there is any distinction between setting up a sting as with the MLK to catch the KKK who would try to kill him and setting up a sting to catch child sexual predictors? Either they are both acceptable or they are both not.


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