If you live in New York, chances are that you've probably broken the law. From smoking the devil's lettuce to urinating in public, locals and tourists commit relatively harmless offenses in the city on a regular basis. One of the most common low-key ways that New Yorkers break the law is by jumping subway turnstiles. The act is considered Theft of Services under the New York Penal Code and led to nearly 10,000 arrests in 2016 alone.
Come September, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. will stop criminally prosecuting the majority of those busted trying to score a free subway ride. Instead, police officers who catch a turnstile hopper will be directed to issue summonses instead of making an arrest and offer "pre-arraignment diversion" for those who do end up being arrested.
The initiative is part of a wider effort by Vance's office called the Manhattan Summons Initiative, which aims to allow law enforcement officials to shift their focus from low-level offenses to crimes that pose a threat to public safety. The DA's goal is to reduce the number of misdemeanor and violation arrests in Manhattan to 50,000 in 2017 (the borough saw more than 93,000 such arrests in 2009).
"The criminal prosecution of these low-level, non-violent offenses should not be a part of a reformed 21st-century justice system," Vance said in a statement. "Absent a demonstrated public safety risk, criminally prosecuting New Yorkers accused of these offenses does not make us safer."
The shift in strategy does not give commuters a green light to hop the subway turnstiles willy-nilly, it aims to keep some of the city's most vulnerable citizens out of the criminal justice system. For those who do wield a 30-day MetroCard, consider swiping someone into the subway if they ask—that act is perfectly legal.