Lancman Sues City For Withholding Fare Evasion Data

 Council Member Rory Lancman speaks at a demonstration demanding the NYPD turn over fare-evasion arrest and summons data at the City Hall R Train stop Thursday. // Photo courtesy of Rory Lancman

Council Member Rory Lancman speaks at a demonstration demanding the NYPD turn over fare-evasion arrest and summons data at the City Hall R Train stop Thursday. // Photo courtesy of Rory Lancman

By David Brand

The NYPD is evading its obligation to share turnstile-jumping arrest data and that doesn’t sit well with Council Member Rory Lancman and other advocates

On Wednesday, Lancman and the Community Service Society sued the city and the NYPD for not publishing fare evasion information as mandated by a December 2017 law.

The law, which took effect at the beginning of the year, compels the the NYPD to separate the data into categories based on subway station and the transit bureau district as well as the race, sex and age group of the person arrested or issued a summons. The NYPD is supposed to publish the data every quarter.

The NYPD has not issued the last three quarterly reports, which should have been published on Jan. 30, April 30 and July 30 of this year, The New York Times reported.

Lancman joined CSS general counsel Judith Whiting, attorney Richard Emery and other legal services organization outside the City Hall R Train stop Thursday to demand that the NYPD release the arrest data.

Lancman and CSS, which advocates for the rights of low-income New Yorkers, also filed a Freedom of Information Law request in May.

"The NYPD's excuse for failing to comply with the City Law is incomprehensible, and the balancing of the public safety, anti-discrimination, and transparency interests inherent in the City Law is not for the NYPD to decide," the lawsuit states. "The City Council and the Mayor make the laws of New York City, and the NYPD, like every other New Yorker, is bound by those laws."

At the event Thursday, Tina Luongo, the chief defender at the Legal Aid Society Criminal Practice, said “it is mind blowing that the NYPD has taken the position to violate a law. All of us should ask why.”

Lancman said analyzing the data will help the city confront racial disparities in fare evasion arrests, just as the city has begun to do with marijuana arrests.

“We are confident once we get this fare evasion data we will force the city to address this discriminatory practice that affects communities of color,” Lancman said. “There is not a broken windows policing strategy or policy or offense that is not wildly disproportionate based on race. Not one.”

A recent report by the Marshall Project revealed that, though turnstile arrests have dropped dramatically since 2014, a disproportionate amount of the people arrested for fare evasion — 89 percent — are black or Hispanic.

The Marshall Project analyzed fare-evasion arrest data from the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services.

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.

In Queens, predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods—including parts of Jackson Heights, Richmond Hill and Jamaica— had the most turnstile-jumping arrests per MetroCard swipe

Across the river in Manhattan, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has asked cops to stop arresting most fare-beaters and instead issue summonses.