By Gina Martinez
Councilman Rory Lancman’s (D-Hillcrest) bill requiring the NYPD to provide periodic data on fare evasion arrests received formal consideration from the City Council’s Public Safety Committee this week. The legislation, which was introduced in July, would require NYPD to release data quarterly on the number of arrests and MTAsummonses issued for subway fare evasion.
Lancman, who also serves as chairman of the Committee on Courts & Legal Services, sponsored the bill in response to data from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services that showed that in the first six months of 2017, the NYPD made more than 30,000 stops for jumping a turnstile. According to the data, of those who were stopped, three-quarters were issued a civil summons for violating the MTA rules against fare evasion, but during the same period 8,625 individuals were arrested for “theft of services,” a misdemeanor offense under state penal law. Nearly 90 percent of those arrested for theft of services in 2017 were either black or Latino and Lancman said the data confirmed that the city’s prosecution of fare evasion as a crime disproportionately affects immigrants and people of color.
According to Lancman, his legislation will fill in the gaps in the current system for reporting fare evasion arrest and summons data. The NYPD currently only reports the total number of individuals arrested for “theft of services,” broken down by race. The additional information provided to the public, specifically the subway station where the enforcement action was taken, will allow straphangers to have a clear understanding as to how the NYPD is targeting its resources and which communities are predominantly affected, Lancman said.
He said the mayor’s insistence on using arrests and criminal prosecution for fare evasion has disproportionately targeted brown and black New Yorkers even though a civil alternative is readily available. Lancman said the city does not know where the NYPD is focusing its fare evasion enforcement and which precincts are spending the most time and resources chasing after fare beaters.
“My legislation would provide the public with readily available data needed to fully evaluate the city’s fare evasion enforcement practices and highlight the critical need for change,” he said Monday. . “I am pleased the Public Safety Committee is considering my bill today and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass it into law.”
The bill will also assure that the NYPD is providing the public with fare evasion arrest and summons data every three months so that policymakers and the public can analyze enforcement trends. Lancman’s legislation also specifies that the data provided by the NYPD must be broken down into the following categories: The subway station where enforcement occurred, precinct of the officer, and the age, gender, and race of the individual who was arrested or issued a TAB summons.
David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society and a MTA board member, said the numbers don’t lie. According to Jones, fare evasion enforcement is unfairly focused on low-income New Yorkers, which highlights a cynical campaign that is a remnant of the Giuliani administration’s “broken windows policing strategy”
“The legislation proposed by Councilman Lancman would shine a light on the data, and by extension, a law enforcement strategy that essentially criminalizes poverty and targets people of color,” he said. “We encourage the City Council to act affirmatively on this legislation and help ensure that policing methods in our public transit system are based on public safety considerations, and not racial profiling.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart