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Mayor de Blasio argues against decriminalizing subway turnstile jumping

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According to de Blasio, the reason behind fare evasion isn’t because riders lack funds

Flickr/John St John

Two Brooklyn lawmakers have announced plans to introduce legislation to decriminalize subway turnstile jumping, making it punishable with a fine of $100 rather than resulting in arrest. But this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio took a different stance on the issue.

According to Gothamist, during a podcast interview with civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson, De Blasio said that “the typical person who is arrested turnstile jumping has money on them,” therefore the act itself isn’t necessarily an issue of lack of funds.

The mayor also defended his stance by noting that, in some cases, turnstile jumpers have been found to be carrying a weapon; thus, arresting fare beaters keeps the city’s streets safer. He also pointed out that NYPD officers already have the jurisdiction to determine whether it is more appropriate to issue a summons and implement “the most minimal approach” or to take further action (i.e., arrests).

Arresting turnstile jumpers is just one part of the city’s legacy of “broken windows” policing, i.e. prosecuting people for low-level offenses to, in theory, deter larger crimes. But criminal defense attorney Deb Lolai argues that assuming fare jumpers can afford to pay just because the individual has cash on hand is a “false statement.”

“Even if they’re arrested with some cash on them, it doesn’t mean they can afford a three dollar MetroCard,” Lolai told Gothamist. “[M]any of them are trying to survive day by day … so making a claim that just because people are arrested with cash on them they can afford a three dollar ride and are jumping the turnstile regardless, is just a false statement.”

Earlier this week, De Blasio proposed a “millionaires tax” on New Yorkers making above $500,000 annually, in order to raise funds for subway repairs—and part of his proposal includes using those funds to implement a “fair fares” program that would provide half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers. (He’s been less than enthusiastic about the city footing the bill for this program in the past, arguing that it’s the state’s responsibility.)