MTA board members and transit police defended the enforcement of fare beating amid a debate in the City Council about easing up on low-level offenses.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is looking at decriminalizing fare beating, but has proposed summonses and desk appearance tickets for offenses such as drinking alcohol in public, being in the park at night, littering and public urination.
“Certain people in government in the city of New York have urged that we go lightly on those who jump the turnstiles in the subways and decriminalize that process,” board member Charles Moerdler said dismissively. “Why wouldn’t it pay to just make it completely free?”
NYPD Chief of Transit Joe Fox said targeting fare beaters helps uncover other offenses, such as carrying an illegal gun. This year, there were 10 arrests in the transit system for carrying a firearm, six of whom were allegedly fare beaters, according to Fox. There were seven busts for guns in the subway system in the same period last year.
“Riders should be reassured that our continued focus on enforcing minor violations will lead to arrests for more serious crimes,” Fox said.
Fox said discussions with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the Council on low-level offenses would continue.
Mark-Viverito’s spokesman said the city’s criminal justice system has been in need of reform.
“The council is conducting a comprehensive and careful review of proposals that will help continue to keep crime low and New Yorkers safe while also creating a more fair and just city for all New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.
Another board member, Allen Cappelli, backed the transit police’s aggressive targeting of fare beaters.
“What we do in the subways now works,” he said. “It’s not a minor issue.”