WNYC: NYPD to Stop Arresting Most Subway Fare Beaters

Jumping turnstiles is still illegal -- but it might not necessarily lead to an automatic arrest.

Under a new NYPD policy, most people who skip paying a subway fare will receive a summons with a fine.

There are exceptions though. For example, those with outstanding warrants or on parole will be arrested and taken to court. Officers can also make arrests if they’re not able to verify an ID or address.

Vincent Coogan, assistant chief executive officer of the NYPD’s transit bureau, says the policy builds on a pilot project that’s been operating since February. He says the goal is to free up officers for more substantive police work.

“This is keeping more officers on the trains, on patrol, out in the stations, interacting with the public,” he said.

But cops can also use their discretion when deciding whether to arrest someone for fare evasion. And critics warn that could lead to the policy being applied unfairly. “It sounds good, but it’s really the practical application on the street,” said Timothy Rountree, attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal defense practice in Queens.

The New York City council has passed legislation requiring the NYPD to release demographic information about fare evasion, but the police department has yet to do so.

The NYPD says it’s working with the City Council to respond to the law.