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MTA chairman urges against decriminalizing subway turnstile jumping

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. will no longer prosecute individuals charged with fare evasion

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[UPDATE]: MTA Chairman Joe Lhota is pushing back on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s decision to decriminalize turnstile jumping.

In a letter to be sent to Vance’s office, Lhota wrote that the decision to no longer prosecute turnstile jumping isn’t fair to paying customers and also takes away money from the MTA at a time when the cash-strapped agency needs it most, reports the New York Post.

“Fare beating places a burden on law-abiding transit customers who do pay the fare, including low-income citizens who despite financial challenges, still respect the rule of law and their obligation to pay their way,” wrote Lhota. “Further, it seems reasonable to expect your policy will increase fare beating, not only in your jurisdiction, but elsewhere, emboldening fare beaters in subways and buses across the city.”

Lhota is urging Vance to reconsider his decision while Vance’s office says that it will issue a response once the letter is officially received.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is moving forward with plans to decriminalize turnstile jumping.

Back in June 2017, city officials announced that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office would move to decriminalize minor non-violent misdemeanors in a quest to decrease the number or criminal cases by approximately 20,000 per year. Turnstile jumping in the borough would bring about less severe punishment that would include issuing civil summonses or desk appearance tickets and giving the violator the option to participate in counseling sessions in lieu of having to appear in court.

The Observer reports that Vance’s office announced on Thursday that it will no longer prosecute individuals charged with fare evasion.

“We are continually evaluating our policies and practices in order to advance our mission of criminal justice reform alongside our primary mission of public safety,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilo in a statement to the Observer.

District Attorneys in the city’s other boroughs have not yet adopted the same policy, however, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced plans to adopt a similar protocol as Vance. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says that they are studying the issue.

Activists argue that evasion arrests disproportionately impact New Yorkers of color and clog the court system with thousands of cases. While many are in favor of decriminalizing fare evasion, the question of whether civil summonses and community service will be effective remains.