New York City’s M35 bus runs from Spanish Harlem to the city’s largest men’s homeless shelter. Undercover police officers are now arresting riders who don’t pay the $2 fare, the New York Times reports. City officials insist, as they have for many years, that arrests for minor crimes lead to people the police are already looking for and deter more serious crimes. The lower crime rates prove that the policy works, say authorities. Defense lawyers argue that those arrested do not have fare money and pose no threat to society.
Homeless men and lawyers who defend them say that the city created a Catch-22 when it designated the shelter as place to sleep but arrested people who could not pay for the bus to get there. Police spokesman Paul Browne said officers were reacting to complaints from riders and the transportation authority. “We’re not trying to prevent someone from going to a shelter, but at the same time you can’t have large numbers of individuals evading the fare and essentially turning the bus – a public transportation facility – into their own vehicle,” he said.