Jumping Turnstiles? Prepare to Get Arrested, Not Ticketed

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In the reckless days of our now long gone youth, we engaged in activities that we would never do now that we are older, more mature, and, uh, slower. Reader, we once jumped a turnstile. Actually, that’s not entirely true. What we did was drunkenly cram ourselves with two of our friends into one of those revolving door entrances, all the while laughing about how we were so smart because we just saved a couple dollars, only to be greeted on the other side of the entrance by a cop who already had his ticket book out and ready to write us up. Buuutttt… long story short (we were young and white and female!), we got off with a stern talking to, and went on our merry way, never to get caught breaking the law break the law again.

Who knows what would happen if we tried that again now? Still being white and female, there’s a pretty good chance that we might still walk free because our justice system is fucked, but for tens of thousands of New Yorkers in the last five years, fare-beating has resulted not in tickets or threats of tickets, but in arrests and jail time. Via the Daily News, we learned that arrests for turnstile jumping have soared in the last five years, while ticketing for that offense have actually dropped. The paper “looked only at collars in the city’s subway system where fare-beating was the most serious charge, and found such arrests have increased 69%—from 14,681 in 2008 to 24,747 in 2013—and are on pace to be slightly higher this year;” plus, the News revealed that “fare-beating summonses—which carry much less serious consequences—are down 28% on both subways and buses, from 123,432 in 2008 to 89,128 last year.” (Summonses, however, are on pace to be higher this year, though still not to the degree of arrests.)

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that a huge number of people (mostly male, mostly young, mostly black) are getting arrest records and jail time for the crime of stealing $2.50 from the MTA, thus continuing the criminalization of a huge demographic of New Yorkers. As it turns out, the only crime that leads to more arrests than fare-beating in this city is narcotics charges (which is also something that disproportionately targets young, black men). We aren’t saying that fare-beaters shouldn’t be stopped and penalized for their actions. We don’t want an increase in subway fare because of turnstile-jumpers any more than you do. However, there seems to be a pretty big problem when the theft of $2.50 leads to an arrest and time spent in jail, thus leading to more and more young men of color with arrest records and documented criminal pasts which, oh, we don’t know, could maybe be used against them should they ever have the bad fortune of running into a cop with a trigger finger or an itch to try out his chokehold prowess. We can do better, New York. We have to.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen