The trouble with allowing turnstile jumpers

Isaiah Thompson was arrested after he activated the emergency brake on a 2 train in Manhattan, police said.
Isaiah Thompson was arrested after he activated the emergency brake on a 2 train in Manhattan, police said. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

How does someone who apparently delights in pulling the emergency brake and causing general chaos for riders keep getting allowed back on the subway?

“I like to create mayhem,” Isaiah Thompson allegedly told police after he was arrested last week for thrill-riding outside a northbound 2 train, then climbing aboard and pulling the emergency brake, during evening rush hour no less.

He also is accused of subway surfing while exposing himself, plus two assaults, including slashing a man’s arm at Brooklyn’s Jay Street station. Police are investigating whether Thompson, 23, is connected to 750 subway delays since March.

The message to miscreants such as Thompson has been clear: Hang off the back of subway cars? Get back on the trains. Expose yourself? Get back on the trains. Jump the turnstiles? No problem!

Sherman Nelson of Fort Greene, Thompson’s neighbor, told The New York Times that he has seen Thompson jump turnstiles. A year ago, on orders from the Manhattan D.A.’s office, the NYPD stopped arresting turnstile jumpers.

Hey, no need to traumatize and criminalize people for jumping a turnstile, right? I mean, who really suffers?

Um, how about you and me? The more people get the message that there’s no penalty for fare evasion, the more people do it. Which means less revenue for the MTA. Which means fare hikes for guess who?

“Fare beating places a burden on law-abiding transit customers who do pay the fare, including low-income citizens who, despite financial challenges, still respect the rule of law,” then-MTA chairman Joe Lhota wrote in a letter to Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance last year.

Second, it allows malignant mischief makers repeated entry into the system. How is someone with 16 arrests involving NYC subways still allowed to ride the trains? Isn’t it time to rethink the D.A. office’s permissive attitude?

After Thompson’s arrest, subway officials said brake-pulling endangers not only subway riders, but also track workers.

“It’s stupid, it’s dangerous, it’s selfish, and it’s got to stop,” said NYC Transit president Andy Byford. “These incidents illustrate why the law needs to allow recidivists who repeatedly target subway customers or employees to be banned from the property.”

You think?

 Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.