PARK SLOPE — Arresting turnstile jumpers costs taxpayers too much and the money could be better spent on transit subsidies for the poor, Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman argues in a recent letter to the city's Independent Budget Office.
Hammerman wants the IBO to study exactly how much the city spends arresting and prosecuting fare beaters, arguing that the low-level crime clogs the court system and harms the poor by tagging them with criminal records, he writes in the July 6 letter to the IBO, the agency that provides non-partisan information on the city budget.
"From a public policy perspective, when given the choice it would seem to be better and wiser to use tax-levied money to invest in assisting the public rather than punishing them," Hammerman writes.
Hammerman argues that the cost of fare cards is out of reach for poor New Yorkers, and “desperation caused by extreme poverty can turn even the well-intended citizen into a law-breaker.”
He contends in the letter that arresting and prosecuting turnstile jumping "ends up costing the tax-payers thousands times more than the $2.75 value of the stolen service."
In addition, prosecuted fare beaters may end up with criminal records that could trigger job loss, homelessness and the need for even more taxpayer funded-assistance down the road, Hammerman writes.
The letter requests the IBO calculate the "actual cost" of prosecuting fare beaters and putting them through the court system.
"It begs the question of whether the total amount of money that we, the tax-payers, currently spend on prosecuting this particular crime would be better spent by giving it back to the poor in the form of free, or heavily-subsidized, public transit benefits,” Hammerman wrote.
IBO spokesman Doug Turetsky said Tuesday agency officials will discuss with Hammerman "what may be viable" regarding the proposed cost study. Turetsky said the IBO has received requests in the past to analyze the cost of certain types of arrests, such as domestic violence or marijuana arrests.
"We've had questions like that over the years, but it's very difficult to [study], because that's not the way the NYPD budgets," Turetsky said.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hammerman is district manager for Community Board 6, which covers Park Slope, Gowanus, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and the Columbia Street Waterfront District.
His request to study the fiscal impact of arresting fare beaters comes as police reform activists have criticized the practice, arguing that it unfairly targets black and Latino New Yorkers.
The Police Reform Organizing Project said recently that there was a 1.7 percent increase in fare evasion arrests in Brooklyn from 2014 to 2015, and that 237 of those cases resulted in jail sentences, "costing taxpayers nearly $500 per day for skipping a $2.75 fare the person possibly could not afford." A month ago, police used helicopters to search for a teenage fare beater who escaped from police custody.
Amid a rise in subway crime earlier this year, the NYPD officials considered revamping policing strategies inside the transit system to focus on putting more officers into subway cars, sources told DNAinfo New York.
Read Hammerman's full letter below: