Transit cops busting more panhandlers

Beggars, dancers, subway musicians and hawkers be warned: the NYPD has ramped up arrests of panhandlers and peddlers, according to new MTA figures presented to the board Monday.

Police officers have 345 panhandling and peddler arrests under their belts this year, a 174% increase from the same period in 2013, Chief of Transit Joseph Fox told the MTA board.

“Our enforcement of quality-of-life offenses remains strong,” Fox said.

Panhandling made up most of the quality-of-life collars, with 256 arrests this year, compared to 77 over the same time in 2013. There were 89 peddlers–vendors who hawk churros, DVDs or batteries, for instance — busted by transit police this year, nearly double the amount last year.

Fox also said transit police are continuing to go after fare beaters, some of whom have criminal histories and open warrants. Fox noted a recent arrest of a turnstile jumper who was allegedly carrying a loaded .38 caliber revolver at the 176th Street No. 4 station in the Bronx.

This year, there were 4,841 “theft of service,” or farebeating, arrests in the subway system — 203 fewer than 2013, according to MTA figures.

“Our focus on the relationship between lower-level offenses and major felonies within the transit system will continue,” Fox said.

When asked about quality-of-life subway arrests during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Mayor Bill de Blasio said individual precincts or officers make the decision to arrest someone for “aggressive panhandling.”

“We’re certainly doing it on a case-by-case basis, and it is consistent with both the notion of protecting public safety and recognizing that we’re trying to build a different relationship between police and community,” he said. “We have to go after the small crimes as well as the big crimes.”