Swipe Begging And Other Minor Offenses Face More Lenient Rules
NYC Eases Rules on Subway Swipe-Beggars on Issuing a $25 to $ 50 Fine or a Court Summon
The Manhattan District Attorney announced last month that, instead of leading to arrests, swipe begging in the subway station will lead to a fine from $25 to $50 or a summon to court. The decision desires to free the police, prosecutors and courts from processing the most minor cases. Fordham University Reporter Terry Zeng interviews police officer, swipe-beggars and swipe-givers on their perspectives of the new ruling.
Terry Zeng: In the New York City hustle bustle, there is this group of people who seem to seize opportunities with their patience and boldness. They wait outside the subway turnstiles, coming up to ask those exiting the station to swipe them in with their unlimited MetroCard. These are the subway swipe beggars. Their hitchhiking can lead to a free subway ride, or, if not, leads to trouble. For years, police officers in New York City have been arresting those who ask for swipes in subway stations. But all has changed last month with the easing of the rules. Police officers now don’t arrest defendants of minor infractions, but are issuing them a fine from $25 to $50 or a court summon, according to the New York Times.
The Times reported on the Police Department’s internal order saying the new policy was the result of a decision by the Manhattan district attorney’s office to no longer prosecute people arrested for minor infractions such as swipe-begging, smoking in the subway, or taking up two seats on a subway car. In the statement announcing the change, the decision desires to free the police, prosecutors and courts from processing the most minor cases, making the criminal justice system fairer for all New Yorkers.
At Times Square 42 St. Station, Police officer Ouyang supported the more lenient decision because, as a petty offence, swipe-begging is not equal to stealing or interrupting others. However, if someone is jumping the turnstile, he is considered stealing from the MTA, which will lead to greater trouble than a fine or a court summon. He added that there is no punishment for those who give swipes, but suggested transit riders to simply ignore these swipe-beggars on their everyday commute.
Terry Zeng: DeShawn Cummings, who was swipe-begging at Fordham Rd Station in the Bronx, expressed his life situation.
DeShawn Cummings: I am poor. I don’t have an unlimited. I work and stuff you know. It’s just that…you know, I work really hard but I don’t make a lot of money to cover certain things. Sometimes you know if I don’t have an unlimited, I would just ask for a swipe. It’s better than getting in trouble. I have been in trouble a lot asking for swipes and hopping a turnstile and stuff, and it has caused me to have a criminal record and I don’t want to go about that too much longer.
Terry Zeng: In order to avoid trouble from hopping the turnstile, Cummings now asks for swipes.
DeShawn Cummings: First I got a DAT and then I didn’t go to court. I have been issued a warrant for not showing up for the DAT. For going to court for it for getting a ticket. DAT stands for Desk Appearance Ticket. If you get a number of those and you don’t show up for court. You get disqualified for them. Now for me I am a transit recidivist. What I do is in order to stay out of trouble, I just ask for a swipe. If I see a cop, I just ask him can I get on a train.
Terry Zeng: Cummings thought that the fine will add burden to someone who already can’t pay for the subway.
DeShawn Cummings: The way I feel about it, it’s stupid, because it also conflicts how we live. If somebody doesn’t make enough money, they have to buy food, pay rent, and they have a cellphone, they have to take care of their cellphone bill and you are probably like fresh out of your shelter and things is a little rough for you at the moment. Your budget is limited and you know there’s not much things you could do with the money you make. You do what you have to do man you know what I am saying? When you get out of homelessness. You know. You step into that world where us independents have to pay your own stuff.
If somebody doesn’t make enough money, they have to buy food, pay rent, and they have a cellphone, they have to take care of their cellphone bill and you are probably like fresh out of your shelter and things is a little rough for you at the moment.
– DeShawn Cummings
Terry Zeng: Cummings hoped that he will be able to afford the transit system one day.
DeShawn Cummings: It’s costly. It’s very costly. Carfares are very costly. It’s hard to… to save money and to go through a transition at the same time. I pray that I get a card soon, you know. That way I don’t really have to depend on NYCT you know.
Terry Zeng: Another swipe-beggar in the Bronx, Xavier Williams, witnessed and knows the circumstances for hopping turnstiles.
Xavier Williams: You get in trouble for not paying your fare. They usually tell you to ask for swipes if you don’t have it. If you just decide to hop, you go to jail. You get a ticket or you get locked up. Most of the time you get locked up. I’ve seen people get locked up for it.
Terry Zeng: Towards the new ruling, Williams was confused why people would get in trouble for begging.
Xavier Williams: Why can’t I swipe somebody on when I get a MetroCard. I mean I personally do it when I get unlimited. When somebody asks me for a swipe, I swipe them on, no problem. If I don’t have fare, if that’s the thing I have to do, yeah. Of course. It’s better than hopping and get into the worst trouble.
Terry Zeng: Sunny Fok, Student at City College of New York, gave a swipe on his unlimited MetroCard to someone at the 125 Street station.
Sunny Fok: I think it’s totally fine to be able to offer a swipe for another person who needs it. I mean whether his position or not it’s as if he need it or not, I feel like it’s doesn’t hurt me or it’s not going in my way, I don’t mind offering a swipe.
Terry Zeng: Fok was aware that it is illegal to sell swipes but felt fine about just giving it away.
Sunny Fok: I think that as long as I am not asking him for anything, it’s totally fine. I believe that everyone, a percentage, probably 90 percent of people who buy monthly are sharing it and I feel like me offering it to a person who is just asking it real quick and it’s not hurting me, it’s fine.
Terry Zeng: Fok thought that swipe-begging will be hard to controlled because giving swipes away from an unlimited MetroCard will not charge the giver.
Sunny Fok: If I were to see any article or any direct translation from me giving a swipe or people giving a swipe to the raise in price of my MetroCard. Yeah, I might consider not giving a swipe most likely. But I feel like no matter what, this is something that can’t be controlled.
Terry Zeng: Fok reflected on the new ruling against swipe-beggars.
Sunny Fok: I feel like that’s totally reasonable. They are the one begging for a swipe. They know themselves they shouldn’t be doing that and if they get fine, as long as they are getting fined and not me giving it to them. I think it’s totally fine. Help these swipe beggars out. It’s fine.
Help these swipe beggars out. It’s fine.
– Sunny Fok
Terry Zeng: Thank you for listening. This is Terry Zeng, reporter at Fordham University.