Is Subway Fare Evasion The Reason Behind Violence? Police Say It Is.

closed subway doors
Zain Murdock
April 2, 2024

After a frightening shooting on a full train approaching a Brooklyn station, the New York Police Department was expected to respond. But, in the midst of national attention, what did officials blame? Fare evaders.

Dajuan Robinson, 36, entered the subway without paying the fare before getting shot with his own gun. According to police, “small things” lead to “big things.” 

NYPD have confiscated 17 weapons during fare evasion searches so far this year. But how much violence has actually been prevented? The rate of violent crime on the subway is lower than what we’re led to believe: about one per million rides.

The idea that people who won’t or cannot pay $2.90 for public transportation are the same people who are responsible for subway violence isn’t new. It’s a textbook example of broken windows policing.

The 90s-era criminology theory claims the state can create “order” by removing the “disorder,” or people evading transportation fare, loitering, jaywalking, and more. 

But will the 100,000 fare evasion tickets NYPD issued last year, or the 800 more cops arranged to guard turnstiles this year, have more of an impact preventing violence by criminalizing poverty — which is a root cause of violence?

Many agree a safe, orderly society wouldn’t have train shootings during rush hour. But as cities nationwide crack down on fare evasion, we must consider what we want order to be. From making public transportation free and accessible to holistically addressing mental crises and houselessness, there are possibilities beyond broken windows.

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