Commentary

DC Liberals Move To Decriminalize Turnstile-Jumping. Ignore Decades of Crime Prevention Research

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Privileged liberals in Washington, D.C., have passed legislation decriminalizing fare evasion on the District of Columbia’s metro system, seeming to ignore the documented effectiveness of such laws in in reducing crime.

The bill, which passed on Dec. 4, changes turnstile-jumping from a criminal offense to a civil one, punishable by a $50 fine, according to The Washington Post. Currently, the criminal offense is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and 10 days in jail.

The change was proposed by Councilman Trayon White, who cited the stricter law’s disproportionate effect on black people, according to The Daily Caller.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes and read stories,” White said. “Ninety-one percent of citations given were issued to black people.”

However, that’s a lousy reason to get rid of a law. Any law that forbids people from essentially stealing rides on public transportation isn’t inherently racist.

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There’s also no reason to believe that the enforcement of the law was racist, especially when we don’t know how many turnstile jumpers are actually black and how many might be of some other race. (The D.C. population as a whole is about 50 percent black, according to World Population Review.

In other words, it’s ridiculous to remove a law for racial reasons when there’s no evidence to suggest that the law itself or those enforcing the law were intentionally targeting members of any particular race.

The measure still needs to be signed by Mayor Muriel Brower, according to The Daily Caller. It was unclear if Browser will sign it or when that decision might be made.

But what is clear is that, in reality, decriminalizing turnstile jumping will hurt everybody, including black passengers.

Do you think fare evasion should be punished by jail time?

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority drafted a letter in opposition to the bill explaining that the public transit system is already losing millions of dollars annually because of fare evasion.

“Metro loses about $25 million a year due to fare evasion on Metrobus alone,” the letter read.

That number will likely skyrocket with the decriminalization of fare evasion, which will negatively impact the overall quality of the subway system.

The bill might also open the door for more criminal activity in the subway.

Cracking down on fare evasion helped New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton clean up the New York subway system in the 1990s, as explained by Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in a 2016 article for the New York Post.

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NYPD could catch lawbreakers before they committed any serious crimes in the subway by intercepting them at entry points.

“By cracking down on fare evasion, we have been able to stop serious criminals carrying weapons at the turnstiles before they get on the subways and wreak havoc,” Bratton said in 1991.

It worked wonders. Subway murders, robberies, rapes, assaults and thefts drastically decreased.

In 1990, 17,497 people were victims of subway felonies. Two years later, the number dropped to 12,199.

In 2015, that number was only 2,502.

Decriminalizing fare evasion will certainly lead to more crimes, but privileged D.C. liberals are more concerned about fighting pretend oppression.

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Malachi Bailey is a writer from Ohio with a background in history, education and philosophy. He has led multiple conservative groups and is dedicated to the principles of free speech, privacy and peace.
Malachi Bailey is a writer from Ohio with a passion for free speech, privacy and peace. He graduated from the College of Wooster with a B.A. in History. While at Wooster, he served as the Treasurer for the Wooster Conservatives and the Vice President for the Young Americans for Liberty.
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