500 new police and law-enforcement officials have been ordered by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to deal with an increase of assaults and fare evasion on the MTA's subways and buses, according to Bloomberg.
The increase in law-enforcement presence will include 200 New York City police officers, paid for with city funds, 200 MTA officers and 100 bridge and tunnel officers. In addition, the MTA plans on using video cameras at some subway gates to support the increase in officers. But of course, MTA Chairman Pat Foye said the agency was "not sure how they can best employ" the cameras.
Governor Cuomo said on Monday that anybody who commits an assault on a transit worker or passenger will be arrested and prosecuted (what a novel idea). Teams of at least two officers are going to be deployed at bus stops and subway gates and will be issuing $60 fines to anyone caught turnstile jumping or boarding the bus without paying their fare.
Cuomo said: “We’ve been talking about doing something for a number of years. If it works we’ll scale it up; if it doesn’t we’ll do something different.”
The increase in law enforcement comes as lost subway and bus fares are expected to total $260 million this year, up from $100 million three years ago. Buses account for about 55% of the evaded fares. About 18% of the city's bus riders use the rear door to gain a free ride, or they just outright "ignore the driver".
Over the past year, the MTA noted 100 serious assaults and 1200 reports of harassment against transit workers. Assaults and fare evasions commonly occur at Manhattan’s Union Square, Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal.
Recall, in December 2018, we noted that fare evasion had spiked to a $215 million problem for the city. The spike was attributed to the Manhattan district attorney’s announcement that he was going to end criminal charges against fare cheats and those who avoid paying for rides.
Andy Byford, president of the New York Transit Authority, told Bloomberg last December:
“There is a correlation between that announcement being made and the decline in fare collections. The assumption is it’s always poor people. Quite often you find people who are well off and could have paid the fare.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced last year that his office was not going to prosecute most subway jumpers unless the offender posed a risk to public safety.
“Government entities should not rely on criminal prosecutions to collect fees or maintain fiscal solvency. Restitution is not imposed and the MTA does not recoup the lost $2.75 fare,” a spokesman for Vance said.