If you’re a patron of the NYC subway system, it’s likely that you’ve seen them on at least one occasion: the turnstile jumpers, rebelling against the oppression of the subway’s fare-based system by vaulting over the turnstiles. Though the so-called “fare beaters” were heavily targeted by NYC police in the 1990s, the penalty for leaping the turnstiles will now be significantly relaxed, thanks to a new policy dismissing prosecution for turnstile jumpers.
The policy, which took effect on Feb. 1, was issued by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. According to a Feb. 10 Associated Press report, Vance clarified that the new policy will not prohibit officers from stopping turnstile jumpers caught in the act, or arresting those with weapons or an open warrant. In a statement cited by the AP, Vance said he believes the criminal justice system “should be reserved for people who endanger public safety.”
The policy has been criticized by many, from subway patrons to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio himself, who feared it would lead to “chaos.”
“A lot of people who commit fare evasion and the police encounter have a lot of money on them,” de Blasio said this month, according to the AP. “I think I have a lot of validity on the question of income inequality and how we fight it, but you never heard me say, you know, open up the gates of the subway for free. That’s chaos.”
The Mayor also voiced skepticism regarding the correlation between turnstile jumping and income inequality, as an October 2017 study by the Community Service Society suggested (the organization is a non-profit overseen by De Blasio MTA Board appointee David R. Jones)/
“There’s no evidence, to my mind,” de Blasio said in an interview Friday with Brian Lehrer of WNYC, according to Patch.com.
“We see — and it’s not perfect research, I think, from any point of view — but we see people who evade fares and have money, and we see people who evade fares and don’t have money.”
In the interview with Lehrer, De Blasio voiced his concerns that lack of punishment for fare beaters signifies a lack of “clear enough consequences,” and that “people will do it more and more. That’s not fair to everyone else in this city who pays their fare.”
One dissenter from De Blasio’s view is Rhona Harrison, a subway patron interviewed by the AP. Harrison agrees with the new policy, believing that prosecutions for fare-beaters are a waste of time and money.
“Why are we tying up our criminal justice system for this, spending so much more money when we could just fine someone who doesn’t pay?” she asked.
By: Andrew McCormick