Subway Fare Evasion Prosecutions Down 96% in First Year of New Policy

February 1, 2019

First-in-the-Nation “Decline-To-Prosecute” Policy Became Effective Feb. 1, 2018 

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today released statistics pertaining to the first year of the Office’s policy to decline to prosecute subway fare evasion cases. Already, the policy has drastically reduced Manhattan farebeating prosecutions, resulting in a 95.55% decrease in subway fare evasion arraignments in January compared to the previous year. Additionally, the D.A.’s policy, taken together with subsequently-implemented New York City Police Department enforcement reforms, has resulted in an 89% reduction in Manhattan subway fare evasion arrests.

“The criminal justice system is not a collection agency, and when it acts like one, it criminalizes poverty and leaves New Yorkers with lifelong records that ruin their chances to escape poverty,” said District Attorney Vance. “One year ago, informed by intensive in-house research and a robust pilot program, our Office exercised our discretion to spare non-violent New Yorkers accused of this $2.75 offense from the unnecessary consequences that accompany criminal prosecution, whether it’s ineligibility for loans or public college, or even deportation. The results show that our City can address quality-of-life infractions civilly and rationally without sacrificing our safety.”

1-Year Statistics

The  D.A.’s “decline-to-prosecute” policy became effective of February 1, 2018, following a five-month pilot project. Between February 1, 2018 and today:

  • “Cases screened” in Manhattan, a metric which correlates with police arrests, have declined 88.6% year-over-year. In January 2018, the D.A.’s Office screened 775 cases. In January 2019, the Office screened just 88cases.
  • Arraignments in Manhattan have declined 95.55% year-over-year. In January 2018, the Office arraigned 742 cases. In January 2019, the Office arraigned 33 cases.
  • Cases brought during this period fell within the three limited exceptions to the D.A.’s “decline-to-prosecute” policy: (1) cases where defendant has a recent violent felony conviction, (2) cases where the defendant has a prior sex crimes conviction, and (3) cases where the defendant is a documented driver of crime.

The full statistics are available here.

Fare Evasion Enforcement Continues

NYPD Officers and New York City Transit Inspectors continue to enforce fare evasion regulations. Violators may be warned, ejected, connected with social services, issued a Transit Adjudication Bureau Summons (a civil ticket), a “C-Summons” (a criminal ticket), or be arrested. The Office’s policy only affects criminal prosecutions following arrests.

As a result of the Office’s policy, Officers are spending less time leaving the transit system – to process arrestees at stationhouses, escort them downtown to arraignments, and testify in court – and more time on patrol at these critical posts. According to the NYPD, “recent fare evasion policy changes have reduced time-consuming arrests in favor of keeping Transit officers on patrol where they ensure the safety for straphangers.” 

A fact sheet regarding the Office’s policy, cost savings, and continued enforcement is available here.