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Poor Black Communities Targeted for Turnstile-Jumping Arrests, Report Says

By Gwynne Hogan | October 16, 2017 2:30pm
 Broadway Junction, Livonia Avenue, Sutter Avenue and Junius Street had the highest arrest rates.
Broadway Junction, Livonia Avenue, Sutter Avenue and Junius Street had the highest arrest rates.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BROOKLYN — Those who live in a poor, mostly black neighborhoods are far more likely to get arrested for jumping a turnstile than in other parts of the city, according to a report released Monday by an advocacy group.

Police arrested more turnstile jumpers per capita at four train stops in East New York, which is 52 percent black, and Brownsville, which is 76 percent black, than anywhere else in the borough, according to the report by the nonprofit Community Service Society.

The report supports concerns of MTA board members who have compared fare-beating arrests to "stealing bread."

Three L train stations — Broadway Junction, Livonia Avenue and Sutter Avenue — as well as the Junius Street 3 train stop had the highest arrest rates per 100,000 MetroCard swipes, according to the report. A total of 281 people were arrested at those stations last year.

The study looked at 4,054 arrests across 157 subway stations in Brooklyn in which the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defenders Services acting as defense attorneys for the individuals in 2016.

Among those arrests across the borough, young black men between the ages of 16 and 36 represented half of all arrests for fare beating, even though they make up only 13.1 percent of poor adults in Brooklyn, according to the report. 

“When you adjust for higher traffic, then you see an even higher arrest rate as poverty goes up and especially black poverty,” said Harold Stolper, an analyst at the Community Service Society who helped prepare the report.

He pointed out that stations in poor Latino communities — like the Sunset Park R train stops at 53rd and 59th streets and the DeKalb Avenue L train station — had lower arrest rates for turnstile jumping than stations in poor, mostly black areas.

The report also found that neighborhoods with more crime don't necessarily have equally high turnstile-jumping arrests.

"Why can’t the city redirect these resources from policing to helping people get through the turnstile?" wondered Stolper, pointing to the Community Service Society's push for the "Fair Fares" program, which would subsidize MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.

"We think Fair Fares really helps solve the underlying transit problem," he said. 

Across the city, a quarter of all turnstile-jumping arrests through mid-June took place at nine subway stations, according to data obtained by DNAinfo New York through a Freedom of Information request. None were the stations that the Community Service Society looked at.

The list of locations includes some high-traffic stations like Times Square and Union Square, though it excludes some of the city's busiest stations, like Grand Central, Herald Square and Penn Station, which had lower numbers of arrests. 


Two Harlem subway stops, three stops in The Bronx and two in Brooklyn also made the NYPD's list of stations with the highest number of arrests for fare beating.

The 2,311 arrests make up about a quarter of the 8,625 turnstile-jumping arrests across the city that took place through the first half of the year.

► READ MORE: Turnstile Jumping Decriminalized by Manhattan DA

Police arrest only about a quarter of the people that they catch fare-beating, DNAinfo reported. The rest of the people caught are written a civil summons and must pay a $100 fine.

In June, the Manhattan District Attorney's office decriminalized turnstile jumping, in an effort to cut back about 10,000 criminal cases annually, the most common offense they prosecute.

"The public is fully aware of the fact that fare evasion is illegal. People who commit fare evasion are subject to a summons or arrest wherever and whenever these offenses are observed," a spokesman for the police department said. "The NYPD assigns its resources within the transit system based on a number of factors...When offenses are observed police officers are expected to address them."