New York Daily News: EXCLUSIVE: Arrests for transit fare evasion surge in recent years, putting it among city’s top offenses leading to jail: Daily News analysis
Fare-beating arrests have increased 69% — from 14,681 in 2008 to 24,747 in 2013 — and are on pace to be slightly higher this year. Nearly 37,500 people have gotten sentences for the $2.50 crime that involved incarceration, including time-served, and 1,802 of those people were minors, according to data obtained by the Daily News.
The turnstile has become one of the city’s biggest pipelines to the jail cell.
Fare-beating busts have surged in recent years, and so has the number of people doing time for the $2.50 crime — making it one of the top charges that has led to incarcerations, a Daily News analysis has found.
The NYPD has said its “broken windows” strategy of targeting low-level crimes such as fare evasion helps prevent more serious crimes and gives cops the opportunity to check people for open warrants, weapons and drugs.
The News looked only at collars in the city’s subway system where fare-beating was the most serious charge, and found such arrests have increased 69% — from 14,681 in 2008 to 24,747 in 2013 — and are on pace to be slightly higher this year.
Meanwhile, fare-beating summonses — which carry much less serious consequences — are down 28% on both subways and buses, from 123,432 in 2008 to 89,128 last year, according to the MTA’s Transit Adjudications Bureau. Summonses are on pace to be higher this year — with 58,370 already issued by last week.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said fare evasion costs up to $100 million a year, and that the agency works in tandem with the NYPD to identify hot spots that can be targeted for enforcement.
“These numbers illustrate, once again, the failure of ‘broken windows’ policing,” said Justine Olderman, a managing director at Bronx Defenders, which has represented thousands of people in fare evasion cases.
“The NYPD trots out this justification that they’re arresting people for minor infractions as a way of keeping violent crime down, and yet there is no evidence to show that there’s any correlation between turnstile jumping and violence,” said Olderman.
From 2008 through the first half of this year, nearly 37,500 people have gotten sentences for fare evasion that involved time behind bars, including time served, and 1,802 of those people were minors, according to data from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
The number of people arrested this year for fare-beating who have received jail time — 3,084, including 75 minors — is only exceeded by all narcotics charges combined. The News was unable to obtain arrest data for fare-beating on buses.
Cops generally cuff someone for fare-beating instead of writing up a ticket if the person has an open warrant or a criminal record, or doesn’t have ID on them, said NYPD spokeswoman Detective Cheryl Crispin. The NYPD declined to comment further.
“Our clients charged with theft of services are all predominately young, all predominately people of color, from under-resourced communities. The reason (for turnstile jumping) is always the same, poverty,” said Olderman. “Our clients are simply people who are trying to get home, to school, to work, to see their loved ones but don’t have the ability to pay.”
Pedro Estrella, 20, who graduated from Millennium Arts Academy in the Bronx, was handcuffed for fare-beating in May because he didn’t have ID on him.
Estrella said he had just bought a shiny gray suit, black button-down shirt and striped tie for his prom, and was using a friend’s student MetroCard to take the train home because his student card is only good for the bus.
A cop saw him fumbling between the two cards and arrested him.
“He was pretending like I was a criminal. He was grabbing me really, really hard,” said Estrella. “They left me in a cell for four hours.”
He said he finally made it to the prom, more than an hour into the dancing.
“They lost my shoelaces. I was wearing boots. The tongue was all the way out the whole time I walked. That was the worst day of my life.”
Estrella, who plans to attend Berkeley College in New Jersey this fall, was given a six-month adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or ACD, which means that if he stays out of trouble for that time period the charge will be automatically dismissed.
Anthony Dailey, 28, a yoga instructor who lives in the Bronx, said he jumped the turnstile because his card wouldn’t swipe.
“I can feel the train’s vibrations. I’m swiping it, swiping it, and it doesn’t say ‘go,’ ” recalled Dailey. “It was 21 minutes ‘til the next train would be there.”
He said he was apprehended by two officers and taken to a jail cell with urine-filled plastic bottles, next to a homeless man who was taking up the entire bench.
“I felt violated. It demeaned me,” said Dailey, who also ended up getting an ACD. “I think a ticket or a violation on the spot was necessary. Jumping a turnstile is very minuscule.”
John Eterno, a retired NYPD captain, author and a professor at Long Island’s Molloy College, said cops should enforce the law, but questioned whether they are concentrating on the turnstile at the expense of the platforms and trains, where more serious crimes tend to happen.
“If people are violating the law, fine, they should be arrested and they should be prosecuted,” said Eterno.
“But it appears that they are putting a tremendous amount of resources into making these types of arrests. Are they doing other operations to get at the thefts that are taking place once people are in the system?”
The outcome of a case is largely determined by the defendant’s prior criminal history, although a recent study commissioned by the Manhattan district attorney’s office found race also played a factor.
For turnstile jumping, The News’ analysis of state data found Asians fared best, with 70% receiving an ACD and 13% getting sentences that involved jail time. Blacks fared worst, with 31% receiving ACDs and 36% getting sentences that involved jail time. Whites got an ACD 48% of the time and jail sentences 31% of the time.
“Every time you get arrested, you build up a record. And so if police train their sights disproportionately on black people, then black people are also going to be more likely to have a record for these minor offenses. And when you walk into court with a record, you’re less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt or a second chance,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s important to think about the consequences of the decision to arrest somebody rather than give them a summons for something as minor as jumping a turnstile.”
By Barry Paddock and Sarah Ryley
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