As subway riders endured another day of hell Monday, groups that provide legal services for the poor were asking for yet more chaos — by giving fare-beaters a pass for breaking the law.
No joke: The Legal Aid Society, The Bronx Defenders and others want The Bronx and Queens DAs to stop prosecuting fare-evaders. This after the Manhattan and Brooklyn DAs recently announced plans to let them skirt criminal charges.
Never mind the revenue the cash-strapped MTA would lose as folks felt free to jump turnstiles. As we’ve said before, failing to contain low-level offenses, like fare-beating, can drive up serious crime.
And any bump in lawlessness would only add to the nightmares riders have faced lately: A track fire Monday — which shut lines, sent smoke billowing down the tunnel and left several injured — was only the latest turmoil riders have had to put up with.
These groups should know better: It’s one thing, after all, to help poor defendants; it’s another for lawyers to ask DAs to close their eyes to law-breaking. (Then again, it’s not surprising: A few years ago, two lawyers from The Bronx Defenders appeared in a video calling for the execution of cops.)
And their let-them-slide arguments hold little sway: Fare evasion is a “crime of poverty,” they say. “The real crime” is to punish riders “who can’t afford a MetroCard.”
Please. Low-income New Yorkers can get numerous subsidies — for housing, health care, food and more. If these groups think that’s not enough, they can argue for more benefits. But lawlessness is not an answer.
Nor is the risk of deportation of illegal immigrants grounds to give fare-beaters a pass. For one thing, it’s not clear there’s really much risk. For another, anyone here illegally should at least be expected to obey the law, including paying fares.
The Manhattan and Brooklyn DA’s decision to stop going after fare-evaders dovetails with the city’s ill-advised decriminalization drive. But…