DC Council holds hearing on bill to decriminalize fare evasion on Metro
WASHINGTON - Should people be arrested for not paying their fare to ride Metro? It is the subject of a bill up for debate with the D.C. Council.
Metro is against decriminalizing fare evasion and Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik said 92 percent of the people who are stopped for fare evasion results in either a warning or ticket, and arrests are usually the result of an outstanding warrant, refusal to cooperate with an officer or other crimes.
Pavlik said an increased effort to stop fare evaders has also cut down on overall crime on Metro by 20 percent.
However, others said no one should ever face arrest for fare evasion.
Earlier this year, FOX 5 was first to show you the arrest of a man holding his baby at the Congress Heights Metro station after police say he refused to pay his fare. While police said it was more than fare evasion that led to the man's arrest, Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8) said it should have never happened.
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"We have a significant number of young people and economically-challenged residents in the District who are being arrested for minor offenses," said White.
However, Chief Pavlik pointed out that in the past five days, Metro Transit Police officers making fare stops have arrested 11 people for open warrants and recovered two illegal weapons. He went into detail about a particular stop that took place in September.
"Following our procedures, the officer identified the man and ran a wanted check," said Pavlik. "Moments later, the dispatcher advised the subject was wanted on an outstanding warrant in Prince George's County for second-degree murder."
But many testified the fare evasion crackdown affects those who cannot afford to pay to ride, and an arrest could have lasting effects.
"Poor residents, especially poor residents of color, face far greater risks of being fined, arrested and jailed for violations of minor offenses like fare evasion," said Nassim Moshiree, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation's Capital.
There is also the financial impact of fare evasion. Metro Board chairman Jack Evans said it costs Metro nearly $25 million a year.
Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large), who supports this bill, wanted to include eating and drinking on Metro included in the legislation, but that did not get much traction.