New York could be backing away from a key tool used in the “broken windows” strategy of policing: arresting people who jump subway turnstiles.
Two state legislators from Brooklyn recently proposed a law that would decriminalize the offense, the latest in a growing wave of local officials who argue that evading a $2.75 subway fare is no reason to land behind bars. Turnstile jumping, or fare beating, is currently considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. “No one should face the nightmare of arrest, a criminal record, loss of housing, or deportation over fare evasion,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, at a press conference announcing it last week.
Under the law, evasion would be considered a civil offense. Those caught would be charged up to $100, but their criminal records would not be affected; neither would their immigration status if they are undocumented.
It’s too soon to gauge the bill’s prospects, but it aligns with the policies of some city prosecutors: Last month, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced his office would stop prosecuting fare beating, offering alternatives like community service instead of criminal charges. Acting Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez has said he will implement a similar policy. Those shifts follow the recommendation of an independent commission studying criminal-justice and incarceration reform in New York City, which argued that multiple minor crimes, including this one, should be treated as civil offenses.