MANHATTAN — Soon jumping a subway turnstile won't be criminally prosecuted, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Friday.
The new rule, which is set to begin in September and so far applies only in Manhattan, will end the criminal prosecution of about 20,000 misdemeanors each year, the DA's office said.
Turnstile jumping, officially called theft of services for subway-related offenses, will only be prosecuted if the person poses a “demonstrated threat to public safety,” according to the District Attorney’s office.
Nearly 10,000 people were arrested for turnstile jumping in Manhattan last year, the most common charge in Manhattan Criminal Court, the District Attorney’s office said.
“The criminal prosecution of these low-level, non-violent offenses should not be a part of a reformed 21st-century justice system,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement. “Absent a demonstrated public safety risk, criminally prosecuting New Yorkers accused of these offenses does not make us safer.”
Vance said the new policy will let his investigators focus on "more serious crimes" and reduce the jail population at Rikers Island, which would help the city to achieve its goal of closing the notoriously troubled complex in 10 years.
The DA’s office estimates that this change will drastically reduce the amount of people who are prosecuted for this offense. The office will issue summons instead of arrests, and people will not need to appear in court if they complete a diversion program.
The Legal Aid Society, a nonprofit that provides free legal services, is calling for the other boroughs to follow Manhattan’s lead and stop prosecuting turnstile jumpers.
"The District Attorneys in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx have an opportunity to do right by their constituents and end prosecuting turnstile arrests immediately,” Tina Luongo, an attorney at The Legal Aid Society, said in a statement. “Ones' chances of a second shot should not depend on the borough you are arrested in.”