Brooklyn politicians want to decriminalize subway turnstile jumping

Posted On Wed, July 26, 2017 By

Posted On Wed, July 26, 2017 By In Policy, Transportation

Image via WNYC

According to the Daily News, in 2016, roughly 92 percent of persons arrested for fare evasion were people of color, many of whom were also low-income and ended up spending at least one day in jail. With this in mind, State Senator Jesse Hamilton of Crown Heights and Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright of Bed-Stuy, both Democrats, will introduce legislation to decriminalize turnstile jumping cases. Instead of the offense warranting an arrest, misdemeanor charges, and a $100 fine, they propose the MTA’s Adjudication Bureau handle it as a civil matter.

Image by paulmmay via flicr CC

Fare evasion has been one of the NYPD’s big broken-windows initiatives, started in the ’90s under Mayor Guiliani. Mayor de Blasio, too, opposes decriminalizing it, claiming that it would “create chaos” and noting that some of those caught for evading payment have been found with open warrants or illegal guns, according to amNY. He said that most people arrested for the crime “are recidivists” and “there’s no way in hell anyone should be evading the fare.” De Blasio also recently declined to fund a $50 million program for half-price MetroCards for low-income riders.

But Hamilton and Wright feel it’s wrong for someone to have a permanent record for failing to pay $2.75, when in many cases it’s simply because they can’t afford it. “No one should face the nightmare of arrest, a criminal record, loss of housing or deportation over fare evasion,” Hamilton said.

Their push comes after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced last month that his office will stop pursuing criminal cases against most people arrested for fare evasion, instead issuing a civil summons and a fine to first-time turnstile jumpers. Repeat offenders would then get a desk-appearance ticket and the option to complete a diversion program ahead of going to court. The Brooklyn DA’s office committed to a similar policy soon after.

As 6sqft recently reported, the “NYPD arrested 5,137 New Yorkers for fare evasion between January and mid-March of this year, 90 percent of whom were black or Latino.” And while 58 percent of low-income New Yorkers rely on subways and buses, 75 percent were unable to afford transit fare at least once in 2015.

In an in-depth feature last month, the Times recently explained that police currently issue a summons to 75 percent of those who are stopped for turnstile jumping or fare evasion. And if they have a history of similar arrests or don’t have proper ID, they’re charged with “theft of services,” a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. In 2016, 67,400 people were issued civil summons and a $100 fine for the crime and 24,600 were arrested for theft of services.

This latter group, however, has fallen 19 percent over the past four years, but Hamilton still feels change is necessary: “Although these numbers are trending in the right direction, criminal records and jail time should not be the result based on inability to pay a transit fare,” a report issued by his office said.

[Via NYDN and amNY]

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