Governor Cuomo announced June 17 that 500 additional police officers will be deployed in city subways and along its bus routes to combat rising fare evasion and assaults on transit workers.
He linked the two troubling trends and credited Transport Workers Union Local 100 for persistently raising the issue.
Bucks Subway-Crime Trend
The Governor made the announcement with Pat Foye, Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Mr. Cuomo noted that the uptick in worker assaults and fare evasion were occurring in the context of an overall decline in subway crime.
He said fare evasion, which cost the MTA $100 million in lost revenue in 2017, skyrocketed to a $225-million loss last year and is projected to exceed $260 million this year.
“The fare-evasion hot spots, the station and bus routes that are the targeted locations for the highest incidence of fare evasion corresponds with the stations and bus routes where we have seen assaults on MTA workers,” he said.
“So, there are 100 hot spots…50 subway stations and 50 bus routes which will be the primary deployment for these 500 officers.”
The additional officers will enter the transit system June 24.
The Governor also said that the prevalence of the homeless in the city’s subway system needed additional attention. “You help no one by letting them sleep on the trains and lay on the floor of Grand Central Terminal,” he said. “That is some misguided concept of altruism that this is a nice thing that we are doing for people, letting them sleep on the floor.”
Where Cops Come From
The de Blasio administration has committed 200 NYPD officers. The MTA’s own Police Department will redeploy 200 officers, and 100 of the MTA’s Bridge and Tunnel police officers will also be assigned to the hot spots.
The Governor said officials had identified the list of hot spots but did not want to make it public for tactical reasons.
The announcement came 48 hours after an unknown assailant punched a 59-year old MTA worker in the face June 15 at 3 a.m. on the platform of the 145th Street IRT station.
On April 21, a subway conductor was stabbed multiple times by an assailant whom he held until police arrived and took the suspect into custody. That same month, an MTA Conductor and a Bus Operator—both women—had urine thrown at them by the same man about an hour apart.
‘Problem Getting Worse’
“It is a problem that is getting worse, said Mr. Cuomo. “We cannot allow it.” He added that last year there were 2,300 incidents of harassment, as well as 100 assaults on MTA workers that included stabbings and serious physical assaults.
“MTA employees are public servants—these are people doing a very difficult job,” he said. “Spend a day working in a subway tunnel or on a subway train, driving or conducting it all day long, and tell me it is easy.”
"This is a big victory for Local 100 and for our members," Local 100 President Tony Utano, said in a statement. “We are sick and tired of the abuse. We are hopeful that these additional officers will not only deter attacks against our members but also result in quick arrests when crimes do take place.”
A Local 100 member who works at one of the system's high-volume subway stations said in an interview that he was cautiously optimistic about the additional police presence. He was skeptical, however, that top officials grasped what a negative impact the homeless had on the transit system. "These guys are clueless about what happens when we have to take one of these folks off a train in rush hour," he said.
In addition to the deployment of police officers, Manhattan DA Vance has committed $40 million from his agency’s criminal-proceeds-forfeiture fund towards personnel training and the development of new technology aimed at deterring and preventing fare evasion.
Hardly Any Prosecutions
Mr. Vance told reporters that his office had reduced criminal prosecutions of fare-evaders over the last year by 96 percent because as a practical matter “nothing happens in court,” despite the fact that the cases took up “the time of court officers, judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors for a $2.75 theft.”
“There are no sanctions that are actually imposed, and what I saw happening was an expenditure…of a lot of money for very little criminal justice,” he said. He also expressed concern that there had been a racial disparity in fare evasion prosecutions in the past that targeted “overwhelmingly men and women of color.”
“If you are an individual and you drove through an E-ZPass toll you are not going to be arrested,” Mr. Vance said. “You are going to get a ticket. There are thousands of people who double-park their cars in New York City. They don’t get arrested. They get a ticket.”
Mr. Foye voiced support for Mayor de Blasio and the City Council’s program that offers subsidized MTA fares to low-income New Yorkers. “We are grateful for New York City’s Fair Fares program. which is right now helping 50,000 low income New Yorkers—and that number is increasing—to pay their fares,” he said.
18% Evade Bus Fares
The MTA Chair observed that while fare-evasion was a serious problem systemwide, it was particularly prevalent along city bus routes, with “shockingly” more than 18 percent, or “nearly one-in-five,” bus-riders opting not to pay.
“This is a huge deal,” Mr. Foye said. “The revenue the MTA loses every day to fare-evasion is vital to maintaining and improving our subway and bus network for all New Yorkers.”
He continued, “It is important to note that subway and bus fares are unlike the museums on Wednesdays—fares are not suggested donations. Most New Yorkers would not dream of taking a Snapple every day from a deli and not paying for it.”
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