Advocates rip de Blasio saying available evidence shows fare-beaters are mostly poor

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Advocates dispute Mayor de Blasio’s claim that there’s “no evidence” that subway fare evasion is mostly a crime of poverty.

“There is no evidence to my mind,” de Blasio, who opposes a move by the Manhattan district attorney to stop prosecuting most fare evasion cases, said Friday on the Brian Lehrer show.

“We see people who evade fares and have money, and we see people who evade fares who don’t have money. We see people who evade fares who unfortunately have done other criminal acts.”

But advocates say the available evidence indicates that it’s mostly poor people who jump the turnstile.

An analysis by the Community Service Society of fare beating arrests in Brooklyn in 2016 found that rates are higher at subway stations in poor neighborhoods, and especially poor black neighborhoods.

The four stations with the most arrests per swipe were all along the border of East New York and Brownsville.

“They seem to be highly concentrated in the very poorest neighborhoods in the city of New York,” said David Jones, president of the Community Service Society and an MTA board member.

The analysis found that as the poverty rate increases from 30% to 40% in a black neighborhood, the arrest rate more than doubles from 1.7 arrests to 3.6 arrests per 100,000 swipes. In white areas, the same increase in poverty pushes the rate from 0.6 arrests to 0.9.

More than one in four low-income New Yorkers said in a survey sponsored by the group that they are often unable to afford subway and bus fare.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance has said he will decline to prosecute most people arrested for fare evasion. De Blasio and MTA chairman Joe Lhota both oppose that policy, as does NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill.

Cops say that most people they stop for the offense are given a summons, but repeat offenders along with people with open warrants or who are also caught committing another crime are arrested and charged with theft of services.


Advocates are arguing there is available evidence that shows it’s mostly poor people who jump the turnstile.

(Smith, Bryan, Freelance NYDN)

In his radio interview, de Blasio said there’s no “perfect research,” but he is not convinced most people cheat the fare because of inability to pay.

“It’s a mix for sure. I’m not saying poverty doesn’t play into this. I’m saying we can’t use that as a reason to create an incoherent system,” he said.

Earlier in the week, the mayor also claimed that “a lot of people” stopped for fare evasion “have a lot of money on them.”

The mayor’s office and NYPD have not produced any data on the amount of money found on people busted for fare beating.

“The evidence I’ve seen on the front lines for the last nine years as a public defender in Manhattan is that this is a crime of poverty,” said Eliza Orlins, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

The group has represented 12,586 people arrested for fare evasion in 2017 and the first month of 2018. According to rules, they must earn less than $29,425 for an individual to qualify for a Legal Aid lawyer.

“My clients who are being arrested for jumping turnstiles have no money on them, and in fact once they’re released from custody I have to give them a MetroCard to get home,” Orlins said.

“These are people who are incredibly poor,” she said. “I’m not seeing cases where rich people are being arrested for fare evasion.”

De Blasio says that regardless of the motivation, fare evasion must be punished. He supports a tax on the rich that would fund both repairs to the failing subway system and discount fares for low-income straphangers.

“Whether you have money for the fare or not, cheating it isn’t fair to fellow New Yorkers,” said spokesman Austin Finan. “Instead of turning a blind eye to those who won’t ever think twice about jumping the turnstile, the Mayor believes we should enforce the law and pass the millionaire’s tax to fund discounted rides for those who truly can’t afford it.”

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