New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance are at odds over prosecution of the city’s turnstile jumpers. De Blasio opposes Vance’s new policy of declining to prosecute most who are arrested for fare evasion, the New York Times reports. De Blasio, a champion of improving the lot of poor New Yorkers, defends the police practice of using evasion of the $2.75 subway fare as a means for officers to check the names and warrants of those they stop, most of whom are black or Hispanic. He has been unpersuaded by critics who believe the approach — pioneered in the 1990s by William Bratton, de Blasio’s first police commissioner — is a form of biased and overly aggressive policing akin to stop-and-frisk.
The mayor does not think most violators are motivated by poverty. “A lot of people who commit fare evasion and the police encounter have a lot of money on them,” de Blasio says. Robberies on subways in Manhattan are up to 19 so far this year, up from nine in the same period a year ago. Some police leaders say that the crime decreases over recent years have resulted from decades of attention to the turnstiles. The Times says the spat over how to deal with fare evaders cuts to the heart of criminal justice reform: In a city where crime has reached record lows, how much more can the justice system change? Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, cited a recent arrest of a man from Virginia whom officers confronted over failing to pay his fare and discovered he was wanted for attempted murder in his home state. He called on DA Vance to continue prosecuting fare evaders.