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2,000 People Were Arrested for Turnstile-Jumping in January: NYPD

By Danielle Tcholakian | February 23, 2017 8:49am
 New data on farebeating is being provided amid a push for subsidies for low-income riders.
New data on farebeating is being provided amid a push for subsidies for low-income riders.
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DNAinfo/Tom Liddy

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Transit police arrested 2,000 people and issued summonses to 5,502 others in January for fare-beating, according to NYPD data provided at an MTA meeting Tuesday.

The NYPD is newly providing the MTA with data on arrests for "theft of service" at the request of MTA board member David Jones, who said he's concerned "about how much time is being spent by the NYPD on what I see as a quality of life problem."

If the January numbers are any indication, the NYPD is stopping more than 90,000 people a year for turnstile-jumping, which Jones said "starts to look like the main task of the NYPD in the subways is fare evasion."

"I’m also worried that if you start to look at the demographics, who’s interfacing with the criminal justice system on this, it’s generally young people, blacks and Latinos," Jones explained. "This is like Victor Hugo, 'Les Miserables,' persecuting people for stealing bread."

The January data amounts to 17.5 percent fewer arrests and seven fewer summonses than in January of last year, NYPD Transit Assistant Chief Vincent Coogan said at the Tuesday MTA meeting. 

According to a tweet by Transit Chief Joseph Fox, 73 percent of people stopped for fare evasion are issued summonses and released without arrest.

Fare-beaters are arrested if they're found to have an open warrant or if they don't have photo identification on them, Coogan told the MTA's board members.

Knowing that, Jones said after the meeting that he is concerned about the potential for these fare-beating arrests to lead to deportation of undocumented immigrants and even green card holders under President Donald Trump's new policies.

"Even before the Trump victory, I would’ve been concerned because I don’t want young people having an interaction with the criminal justice system that doesn’t involve some very serious activity," Jones said. "Now it’s heightened — we just don’t want to give more ammunition and more reason to deport people who have engaged with us because of poverty."

► Read more: City Should Subsidize Half-Price MetroCards for Poor New Yorkers, Advocates Say

Another concern, Jones said, is that even if a turnstile-jumper is given a summons, they likely can't afford to pay the fine, which lands them in more severe legal trouble.

"The collection rate on these [summonses] is abysmal — you’re running down people who have already indicated they don’t have money," Jones said. "Then it gets deeper because then you have a warrant and something else happens and then you’re in a whole other level of engagement with the criminal justice system.

"You’re sort of setting the groundwork for tens of thousands of people to suddenly get caught up in the coils of a criminal justice system really not aimed at them," he added.

He also maintained that if the NYPD and the MTA was truly interested in "making sure fare evasion doesn't happen," they could "go preventative, have a big sign there and a policeman under the sign," rather than having plainclothes officers lie in wait.

Jones vowed to pursue the issue by requesting data on the demographics of the people who are arrested in order to determine if certain groups of people are being disproportionately impacted.

Along with "theft of service" data, MTA board members have for months requested data on hate crimes that take place in the subway.

Coogan said he would have a formal presentation on that data next month, but at Tuesday's meeting he spoke generally about nine "bias-motivated incidents" in the subway system in January, seven more than occurred over the same time period last year.

Five were classified as criminal mischief, typically graffiti, Coogan said.

Two were misdemeanor assaults, one was harassment, and the ninth was menacing, Coogan said.