Sting operations are organized operations designed to catch criminals. In most cases, sting operations will have a member of law enforcement — or a member of the public — play the role of a criminal partner or a potential victim in order to gather evidence to trap criminals.
Sure, sting operations can bring up a host of ethical concerns, like, are you entrapping someone or enticing them to commit a crime they might not otherwise carry out. Critics of “To Catch A Predator” argued that the punishment of being exposed on TV sidestepped the legal system, in a show that sought to lure and adults that might prey on children.
But in these cases below, law enforcement tried to get creative, even wacky, dressing up like cartoon characters or even posting about having a horse that was, um, open to other types of riding. Several of the stings on this list did result in arrests and tickets but that doesn’t make them any less strange.
1. Donald Duck decoy
Police in Fort Lee, New Jersey used a Donald Duck costume as a decoy to catch drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians. Drivers who didn’t stop for the cartoon duck were ticketed. One woman, Karen Haigh, fought her $230 ticket.
“They told me that I was getting a ticket for not stopping for a duck,” she told Eyewitness News. “But it scared me. I’m a woman. This huge duck scared me.”
2. Coco the Clown
These old clips from the show COPS show a strange undercover police sting, and proves the adage that clowns are usually scary or just creepy. One cop dressed up as Coco the Clown, an outfit that kind of resembles John Wayne Gacy, to catch women working as sex workers. Spoiler: he pretty much sprays all of them with silly string and the whole thing is sad to watch.
3. Amish woman
At least one cop from the Pulaski Township Police Department in Pennsylvania dressed up as an Amish woman in an attempt to catch a sexual predator. Sgt. Chad Adams of the Pulaski Township Police Department wandered the streets for two months in 2014 after police were tipped off that a predator was masturbating in front of children, according to the Associated Press. He posted on the department’s Facebook page, “Hey friends, sometimes being a police officer means going undercover and doing what you have to do to catch the bad guy. Now that our investigation is complete I’ll share with you this photo! Back in January we had an individual preying on Amish children walking home from school. The male individual was pulling up to the children and getting out of his car and masturbating in front of them. Although we did not apprehend the individual we believe he was caught in another county. I wanted to share with you that we will use all means available to try and protect our children. That includes dressing up as an Amish woman to attempt to apprehend a pervert! Thanks goes out to the Neshannock police and New Wilmington police in assistance with the investigation! Sincerely, Sergeant Chad Adams.”
Sadly, the sting didn’t work, but police believe it is because the culprit moved into another county, Newser reported.
4. DVD Prize sting
Police in Phoenix, Arizona set up a sting to catch people with outstanding warrants, mostly DUIs, in 2002. The people were told they won a DVD player. People thought they were showing up to pick up their prize. Instead, they walked right into their own arrest. Watch as these suspects went from excited to shocked to sad.
5. Panhandling trick
In 2015, undercover cops in California posed as panhandlers to ticket distracted drivers. They stood on the side of the road, posed as panhandlers and holding signs that identified them as police officers. The pieces of cardboard they were holding also stated that they were looking for seatbelt and cellphone violations. For those drivers who weren’t paying attention, they didn’t read that and they ended up paying the price.
6. Horse sex
Police in Arizona responded to an online ad posted by suspect Michael Crawford in 2015. He was soliciting a willing horse owner who would let him have sex with his horse. Investigators in the Animal Crimes Investigations Unit chatted with Crawford via e-mail and the phone, posing as willing horse owners, according to USA Today. The exchanges “graphically detailed” exactly what Crawford allegedly wanted to do to the horse.
The sheriff overseeing it all? The controversial Joe Arpaio, who has announced his run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona in 2018, according to the New York Times. He’s known for his severe correctional tactics and his hardline stance on immigration.