By Gina Martinez
Councilman Rory I. Lancman (D-Hillcrest) formally introduced legislation that would require the NYPD to report the total number of arrests and summonses issued for fare evasion every three months.
Lancman, who also serves as chairman of the Committee on Courts & Legal Services, announced his bill last month with MTA board member David R. Jones and legal services providers, which specifies that the data provided by the NYPD must be broken down by the following categories: subway station where the arrest was made, the precinct of the arresting officer, and the age, race, and sex of the arrestee.
According to Lancman, the NYPD stopped more than 30,000 New Yorkers for jumping a turnstile in the first six months of 2017. Of those who were stopped, almost three-quarters were issued a civil summons for violating the MTA rules against fare evasion. During the same period, 8,625 individuals were arrested for “theft of services,” a misdemeanor offense under state penal law, and nearly 90 percent of those arrested for theft of services in 2017 were either black or Latino.
Lancman said the vast racial disparity in fare evasion arrests reflects figures from the past three years. He said an individual arrested for jumping a turnstile potentially faces serious consequences, such as a criminal record, time in Rikers Island, and even deportation for legal immigrants.
“The collection and reporting of this data will highlight how the city’s prosecution of fare evasion is unfair to people of color and immigrants,” Lancman said. “The mayor’s insistence on using arrests and criminal prosecution of fare evasion, even as a civil alternative is readily available, is unnecessarily running thousands of people through the criminal justice system every year and putting immigrants at risk of deportation. We need more information, and more readily available information, to bring about change to the city’s overzealous fare evasion enforcement.”
Council Transportation ChairmanYdanis Rodriguez (D-???), the legislation’s co-prime sponsor, said far too many young men of color are being sent to jail for fare evasion and it is time to shine a light on this injustice.
“We’ve been fighting for over a year now to support those unable to afford the subway or bus, who are often left to break the law if they want to get to school, work or elsewhere in our big city,” he said. “I’m proud to sponsor this bill with Council member Lancman and we will continue to work on raising the issue of fare evasion and the circumstances that lead to this choice, while questioning the process that seems to target young men of color.”
Lancman said the new legislation will fill in the gaps in the current system for reporting fare evasion arrest and summons data. The NYPD only reports the total number of individuals arrested for “theft of services,” broken down by race. Lancman believes the additional information provided to the public, specifically the subway station where the enforcement action was taken, will give the public a clear understanding as to how the NYPD is targeting its resources and which communities are predominantly impacted.
According to Lancman, this legislation would help ensure that the NYPD is providing the public with fare evasion arrest and summons data in a timely fashion. The NYPD currently releases fare evasion data sporadically, so the reporting of fare evasion data every three months would allow policymakers and the public to analyze enforcement trends.
Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice at The Legal Aid Society, said this bill would force the NYPD to become more transparent.
“We need greater openness from the NYPD about these arrests and how they’re impacting black and brown New Yorkers – especially in the era of Trump where jumping a turnstile could have disastrous consequences,” she said.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart