HANDOUT – A subway biker jumps the turnstile at a Washington station. Metro estimates that annual losses of more than $ 25 million are due to tariff evasion. (WMATA Still Image) (N / A / Still Image) Faiz Siddiqui Local reporter covering subways, Uber and Lyft of Washington DC and transit-oriented technology start-ups December 4 at 7:17 pm The Washington Council this week approved a move to decriminalize the escape of subway rates, paving the way for lower fares. Jumping to become a civil offense punishable by a $ 50 fine in the district., The measure passed despite strong opposition from Metro and its board of directors, argued that the transit agency was losing more than $ 25 million a year for tax evasion and that a reduction in penalties would only exacerbate the problem and lead to more crime. Council members and activists rejected this argument, saying decriminalization was an important step in the fight against the disproportionate police force of African Americans who use the transit system. [D.C. Council votes to decriminalize Metro fare evasion] Much of the debate has focused on issues of race and class, pitting key city leaders and metro officials against civil rights advocates and police reform advocates, saying that too many residents in Washington had a criminal record and were thus deprived of work and housing opportunities. and loans – for neglecting to pay a $ 2 fee. Penalties incurred for tariff evasion include arrest, a fine of up to $ 300 and up to 10 days in prison. Advocates have argued that arrest reports and sentences – whether they are lower sentences generally issued by Metro or up to the maximum – carry the burden of reporting, which can limit the chances of those who receive them. "There are real consequences that we can not ignore, we can not escape, and this law seeks to remedy this," said Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who defended the Bill introduced by Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8). "I want a powerful metropolitan system, but a fair system." Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), DC board member, chairman of Metro's board of directors, and chairman of the board, Phil Mendelson (D ), were the only dissidents. "We are extremely disappointed with the Council's vote to decriminalize tariff evasion, which we believe will have significant financial and security implications for the region," said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. in a statement. "We hope the Council will reconsider this issue once these impacts are understood." The agency said the decision would not have an immediate impact on how Metro Transit Police would apply the fare rules, saying that in the meantime, the police would "continue to do so". everything in its legal power to protect our customers and employees. "Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's office (D) did not approve of the council's action, but said not to expect to lift a veto either." We have not received the final legislation of the Council nor have we planned a veto, "said the office in a statement. We do not believe that the legislation makes us safer or stronger and we hope that the Council will act immediately on such points as the Law 2.0 on the Amendment of the Law on the Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Act of 2017 on the second chance amendment. Proponents of the bill, the 2018 Amendment on the decriminalization of subway fare evasion, referred to a recent report by the Washington Bar Committee for Civil Rights and Urba. n Cases that revealed that between January 2016 and February 2018, 91% of quotes and subpoenas from the Metro Transit police were directed to African Americans. The report revealed that the suppression of tariff evasion had increased in recent years and that the places where it was most prevalent – such as the stations Gallery Place and Anacostia – served a high proportion of African-Americans , thus suggesting a maintenance of the targeted order. "This is a problem," said Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), referring to the figure of 91%. "I'm sad that Metro is losing money, but I'm sadder about what's happening to blacks." Metro says the resorts are just more busy and more criminalized areas requiring stricter enforcement. . The transit agency has provided data this week showing its most demanding application areas are the Gallery Place, Anacostia, Columbia Heights, Pentagon City and Southern Avenue stations. Bus routes with the highest proportion of rate fraud include W4, X2, 92, B2 and 70; W4, the worst offender, has recorded 560,000 tariff evasion incidents since January, accounting for nearly 37% of its 1.5 million trips. (According to Metro, data on tariff evasion is more readily available for buses because drivers have a button to record each time passengers do not pay.) According to Allen, the penalty is disproportionate for passengers. offense and could have an impact for life for those mentioned, the vast majority of them are black. He mentioned the users of Metrobus, which he says systematically avoid paying the tariff by scanning SmarTrip cards with insufficient funds, but are not mentioned. "It would be easy to criminalize very bad behavior that we do not like because we know we do not do it, but what if it happens to you?", He said. "There are serious consequences in real life that arise from misdemeanors and it's not because I do not have that burden that the law is right." Meanwhile, data cited by council members show that arrests, citations and warnings have been multiplied years – from 4,000 in 2013 to 15,000 in 2017. The crackdown coincided with severe income shortages that have pushed Metro to tap into investment funds to finance its operating budget. The report of the lawyers' committee indicated that children arrested for tariff evasion included children as young as 7 years old. Metro's board of directors said that revenue was one of the main reasons why tariff evasion should not be decriminalized in a letter to the DC board, insisting that 80 % of these losses come from the district. "The Commission is interested to know how the Commission proposes to offset Metro's anticipated additional tens of millions of dollars in fiscal year2020 without shifting the burden of subsidy increases to jurisdictions outside of the District of Columbia. " [Here’s why some lawmakers are pushing back against fare evasion crackdowns] The price hike is a problem in many transit systems and there are similar debates about the fact that law enforcement has a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and people of color. The District's decriminalization bill coincides with a crackdown on rate fraud in New York, where, according to a report in the New York Times this week, nearly four per cent of subway users omit pay their rates. The evasion of fares on the city's metro and buses costs about $ 215 million a year, according to transit agency leaders quoted by the Times. New York leaders have resisted calls for the decriminalization of tariff evasion, although the city's attorney's office announced this year that it would stop pursuing riders in most cases. According to Metro, increased enforcement of the law against tax evasion resulted in a reduction in the number of more serious offenses, due to the presence of the police and the proportion of fraud avoiding driving the police to more offenders. serious. For example, according to the commission, while 8% of tariff evasion cases result in arrests, according to current figures, most of these arrests resulted not from the initial charge of tariff evasion but existing warrants for other offenses – an additional crime such as assault on a police officer or omission to present a piece of identity. Activists have argued that the police argument is an imperfect line of thinking. "#WMATA insists that maintaining tariff evasion in crime avoids more serious crimes," tweeted Black Lives Matter's chapter on counterterrorism, linking it to a Frontline report on the subject. "It's the essence of" broken window monitoring, "and here's why it's not working." Mr. Evans stated that a civil quote relating to a parking ticket would essentially be inapplicable. because there is no mechanism – such as the impossibility of registering a vehicle for unpaid parking tickets – payment required. Allen said that the majority of people pay and that in cases where they do not, courts can impose payment. "That's the problem we have. We have a big problem of tariff evasion at Metro. And when you understand that you will simply get a largely unenforceable civil citation, you will have a higher incidence, "said Evans. Mendelson proposed an amendment that would maintain the criminal offense, while limiting the fine to $ 50 and banning the arrest. the payment would not give rise to a conviction. He was completely beaten – at the same margin as the final vote. Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), a member of Council, said that qualifying the offense as "criminal" was not necessary to secure payment of the tariff. She added that Metro could better secure its tariff barriers or erect barriers to avoid tariff jumps, a suggestion that Evans rejected and compared to "making Metro look like a prison." "If you want to be able to stop, if you want Cheh said Metro. But if it is not that, then you have no case. "Groups that supported decriminalization, which also included the American Civil Liberties Union, cited" Broken Windows "which was based on the argument that the punishment of minor offenses could reduce the number of serious offenses, resulting in a disproportionate population criminalized and did not increase overall security. The chapter of the American University of Civil Liberties (SDC) praised the Council's action and criticized Metro's arguments that decriminalization would make the system more dangerous. The group's chief policy officer, Nassim Moshiree, called the council's vote "an important victory for the criminal justice reform in the district". The group also said it was troubled by Metro's assertion that the imposition of a criminal penalty for tariff evasion was a necessary pretext to prevent the police from arresting. "It's a blatant admission that our transit agency relies on pre-textual rulings and racist profiles, something that should worry everyone, not just government officials," said the spokesman. group in a statement.