NYPD will publish fare evasion data, de Blasio says, defending prolonged noncompliance

The NYPD is required to publicly post data on how the department polices fare evasion.
The NYPD is required to publicly post data on how the department polices fare evasion. Photo Credit: Alexander Bohn

Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his police department’s monthslong noncompliance with a city law requiring new public data on how the NYPD polices fare evasion, citing public safety concerns, but pledged to conform to the law in a “matter of the next few weeks.”

“There are legitimate concerns in terms of not portraying information that interferes with the work of the NYPD,” the mayor said of the law at a news conference on Thursday. “That’s always a consideration, but we can address those concerns while achieving transparency and conforming to the law. So this will be resolved.”

The law, enacted in January, requires the police department to post quarterly reports on turnstile jumping enforcement on its website, with details on the race, sex and age of the offenders; the name of the station where they were caught; and whether the farebeater was issued a summons or an arrest for the offense.

Proponents see the reports as a tool to expose what they view as a discriminatory, “broken windows” policing strategy that targets poor, minority communities. Through April of this year, 3,174 people were arrested in the city for subway and bus fare evasion, known as theft of services. Of those arrests, 89.2 percent were either black or Latino, according to state data from the Division of Criminal Justice Services.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and his chief of strategic initiatives, John Donohue, said the department has been negotiating the reports with the City Council.

“Within the next couple of weeks, we will have this resolved and we are going to retroactively produce the reports back to the last quarter of 2017,” said Donohue, without clarifying how the two parties would reach a resolution on the data or when exactly the reports would be publicly available.

Queens Councilman Rory Lancman, the bill’s sponsor, said he expects nothing less than full compliance with the law.

“The city needs to comply with the law that the council passed and that the mayor signed,” Lancman said. “I guess we’re going through the stages of loss — the loss of their ability to ignore the law. There was grief and anger at first. And if we’re up to resignation and acceptance, that’s fine. But I’m getting that data.”

De Blasio, who signed the law his own department has ignored, reasoned such a violation isn’t that unusual.

“There are times when a fair amount of detail is worked out in the legislative process, but you still have to figure out how you’re going to implement something,” said de Blasio, a former councilman himself. “And then there are other times where the intent is agreed on but not the mechanics.”

Lancman disagreed with that notion.

“For too long, city administrations have grown comfortable with their ability to deny the council its rightful institutional role in city government and those days are over,” he said. “Whatever paradigm the mayor had accustomed himself to — that would allow him to expect to sign a bill into law and negotiate its terms later — has changed.”

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