The Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood with one of the city’s highest rates of turnstile arrests per MetroCard swipe. Photo by Harrison Leong.

Marshall Project Report Reveals Racial Disparities in Subway Arrests

By Jonathan Sperling
Queens Daily Eagle

Predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Queens are still a target for fare-beating arrests, despite a push for decriminalization from local leaders, according to a report published by a criminal justice watchdog published on Wednesday.

An analysis of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services data from 2014 through June 2018 by The Marshall Project reveals that, though turnstile arrests have dropped dramatically, a disproportionate amount of the people arrested for fare evasion — 89 percent — are black or Hispanic.

In Queens, the neighborhoods with the most turnstile arrests per MetroCard swipe, such as parts of Jackson Heights, Richmond Hill and Jamaica, are predominantly black or Hispanic.

Across the river in Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has asked cops in Manhattan to stop arresting most fare-beaters and instead issue summonses. Fare evasion includes hopping or ducking under subway turnstiles, entering the platform via an open emergency exit door or boarding a bus via the back door in order to sneak past the driver. Vance’s 2017 announcement has resulted in a significant decline in fare-beater arrests from 25,000 in 2016 to fewer than 10,000 in 2018, The Marshall Project reports.

“We’re making progress,” 24th District Counci Mmember Rory Lancman told The Marshall Project, but, he added, “arresting 10,000 people a year … is still 10,000 people too many.”

Lancman — whose district covers Jamaica, Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest and Fresh Meadows, among other neighborhoods — has been a vocal opponent of prosecuting fare-beaters and threw his support behind Vance’s policy.

“New York City can hold people accountable for fare evasion without running them through the criminal justice system, by issuing an MTA civil summons, similar to a parking ticket. I applaud DA Vance for implementing this smart policy,” Lancman said in a statement on Twitter earlier this year.

Other predominantly black and Hispanic areas affected by turnstile arrests across the city include the South Bronx and East New York, The Marshall Project found.

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