People of color account for 85 percent of fare evasion arrests in NYC

A man swipes through the turnstile at the Ditmars Boulevard station in Astoria.  Eagle  photo by Jonathan Sperling.

A man swipes through the turnstile at the Ditmars Boulevard station in Astoria. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling.

By David Brand

More than 60 percent of people arrested for fare evasion in the second quarter of the year were black or African-American, according to the most recent fare evasion data published by the NYPD. Another 25 percent were listed as “Hispanic.”

Black and African-American people accounted for 414 of the 682 people arrested from April 1 to June 30, while Latinx/Hispanic people accounted for 175 arrests. City law requires the NYPD to publish the fare evasion arrest data every quarter. 

“The city continues to arrest black and brown people for fare evasion at rates that are grossly disproportionate when compared to rates of white people,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, who last year sued the NYPD to obtain the fare evasion data under city law. Lancman sponsored the 2017 bill mandating the reports.

The NYPD publishes the racial, age and gender breakdown of the 10 stations with the highest arrest totals. Seven of those stations are located in Brooklyn, two are in the Bronx and one is in Manhattan at 125th Street. 

Fare evasion arrest data published by the NYPD for the second quarter of 2019. Table via the NYPD

Fare evasion arrest data published by the NYPD for the second quarter of 2019. Table via the NYPD

The disproportionate arrest rate for people of color is even more drastic at those 10 locations, where 68.2 percent of the 148 people arrested were black or African-American (101 of 148), and more than 20 percent (30 of 148) were identified as Hispanic by the NYPD. 

Fare evasions citywide have dropped significantly in recent years as district attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn have declined to prosecute most subway fare evasion offenses, but the NYPD continues to target people of color for “what is basically a crime of poverty,” said Legal Aid Society Supervising Attorney Anthony Posada. 

Councilmember Rory Lancman sued the NYPD to obtain fare evasion arrest data in accordance with city law last year. He spoke about the lawsuit with officials from the Community Service Society of New York in September 2018. Photo courtesy of Lancman’s office.

Councilmember Rory Lancman sued the NYPD to obtain fare evasion arrest data in accordance with city law last year. He spoke about the lawsuit with officials from the Community Service Society of New York in September 2018. Photo courtesy of Lancman’s office.

All but 14 of the people arrested in the second quarter were issued a desk appearance ticket, an order to appear in criminal court to respond to the misdemeanor charge. Though a fare evasion charge alone rarely results in jailtime, it can still affect employment and access to public benefits for those arrested, Posada added. 

The charge is particularly dangerous for immigrants, who could be exposed to the threat of Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest and deportation by appearing in court, he said.

“It has been abundantly clear for years now that the NYPD is incapable of curtailing its disparate enforcement and we urge the city to cease criminalizing poverty because the human cost is too high,” Posada said.