Mayor Bill de Blasio, DA Cy Vance at odds over subway farebeating prosecution

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Should police arrest people who jump the turnstiles on New York City subways? That's a question that's pitting the district attorney against the mayor and the MTA.

For more than two decades, MTA officers have arrested people accused of fare evasion. At the very least, offenders were issued tickets.

But as of February 1, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced it will no longer prosecute farebeating, or "theft of services," as it is considered a low-level crime.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this move sends the wrong message.

"People have to pay to get on the subways," de Blasio said. "Fare evasion is not acceptable, and we cannot create a system where people think it's acceptable."

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota agreed.

On Monday, Lhota sent a letter to Vance "in protest of (the) unilateral decision to end the criminal prosecution of most persons who ride the MTA's New York City transit system without paying the required fare."

Both de Blasio and Lhota argue that many arrested for farebeating have committed other crimes. That was the case last summer when plainclothes MTA officers arrested a 28-year-old man for jumping the turnstile and found a gun in his shoe.

But in response to Lhota's letter, Vance wrote that an analysis performed by his office found that two-thirds of people arrested for farebeating had no prior convictions.

"The criminal justice system should be reserved for people who endanger public safety," Vance wrote. "It should not be perceived as a collection agency for the MTA or other government entities."

The DA's office said turnstile jumpers should continue to be "stopped, questioned, and held accountable."

Nonetheless, the opposing parties still don't see eye-to-eye.

"We are not in full agreement with the DA," de Blasio said. "We respect him. We think the underlying vision he's bringing too it has some merit."

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