P.O.V: Fare Evasion Crackdown

By Omar Mourssi

Hundreds of New Yorkers began hopping subway turnstiles without paying the $2.75 fee in downtown Brooklyn on November 2 to protest police incidents in the subway. This boiling point of frustration came as a result of a recent crackdown on fare evasion, where Governor Andrew Cuomo placed hundreds of uniformed officers into subway stations to monitor them for any turnstile jumpers.

Not long after this deployment of officers, there were several incidents when the NYPD used extreme force on perceived fare evaders. A 19-year-old was swarmed by police and tackled. An officer punched two teenagers in the face, which later resulted in a $5 million lawsuit against the city.

These incidents, and the protests they’ve sparked, show that the placement of police officers in the subways is not universally welcome. For some, it has created a sense of fear, worry, and irritation rather than comfort and safety.

There has been push-back from New York residents and the criticism levied toward this move by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez regarding the funds needed. Ocasio-Cortez says crime rates are already dropping in the subway. Despite this, Governor Cuomo is still preparing to add 500 officers to patrol the subways for fare evaders.

This is a decision that can tangibly effect thousands of New Yorkers, including me. On my route from home to my college campus every day, I take the 7 train at the Main Street station in Queens to Grand Central station. From there, I take the 4 train to either Kingsbridge Road or the Bedford Park Boulevard station. That’s a total of four train stations I move through on a regular basis – and at all four stations I have seen NYPD officers on patrol.

November 25, 2019, 6:17 pm at Grand Central station. Two officers are at the end of a tunnel leading into the 7 train platform, simply standing and watching.

November 27 2019, 6:46 pm at the Main Street station in Queens. Three NYPD officers stand patrol at the opposite end of a turnstile leading into the 7 train platform.

December 2 2019, 2:25 pm at the Kingsbridge Road station in the Bronx. Two officers stand at the opposite end of a turnstile leading into the 4 train platform.

Bedford Park Boulevard station in the Bronx on December 11, 5:26 pm. There were four officers stationed on patrol but they declined to be photographed.

In my personal experience, only two of the four above train stations could possibly be described as “evasion hotspots,” locations where these deployed officers were said to be most needed. With 500 additional officers being deployed into the subway and taking up a significant portion of the MTA’s budget, rather than using those funds to improve train service, this is a problem that will only be exacerbated in the coming months.

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