MTA Hiring 500 Officers To Crack Down On Fare Evasion, Homelessness

Mack Rosenberg
September 13, 2019 - 2:32 pm
MTA Police

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The MTA is hiring 500 transit officers to tackle quality of life issues across the public transportation system.

The new officers will nearly double the transit police force in an effort to fight fare evasion, assaults on workers and customers, and crack down on homelessness on the subways.

"It also means that where we have pulled MTA police in from elsewhere on the system, such as the railroads, they can now move back to doing what they were doing and to provide better coverage across the system," NYC Transit President Andy Byford said.

Fare evasion cost the MTA $225 million last year. Byford said the goal of increasing the police force is not to put people in handcuffs.

"At the end of the day we're not interested in arresting people, we just want people to pay the fare that they must," Byford said.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance will help fund the new officers over the first four years with $41 million from his office's forfeiture fund, but Rebecca Bailin with the Riders Alliance says the money is being misspent.

"What the governor, who runs the MTA, needs to be focusing on is fixing the subway, not focusing on blaming low income communities, homeless folks for the ills of the subway," said Bailin.

She calls fare evasion a crime of poverty.

"If you're evading the fare because you can't afford it then you certainly can't afford hundreds of dollars in fines and you certainly shouldn't be having an interaction with a police officer for that," Bailin said, adding that homelessness is a symptom of a larger problem in the city and notes there are mechanisims already in place to deal with assault on transit

The hirings will come months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the MTA to address homelessness in the subway system.