On June 30, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) announced that prosecutors in his office would be instructed to stop enforcing the law against subway fare evasion. Instead, he announced, they would “divert” such thieves to community service programs.
It’s not as if Vance is enforcing the law now: only one in four fare-beaters gets served anything other than a civil summons and a fine. Of the 25 percent who are arrested, only a fraction are convicted. So why is Vance making such a big deal about prosecuting even fewer criminals for this crime?
The answer lies in the sleazy arithmetic of the anti-incarceration movement. Vance’s decision to intentionally refuse to enforce the law (even more than it is not being enforced already) is part of the politically powerful, bipartisan movement against the imaginary plague of “over-incarceration.”
Libertarians and leftists alike use their media megaphones and money from major donors to pretend that we have a serious problem, not with criminals committing vast numbers of crimes, but with society for daring to insist that we hold people accountable when they break the law.
Never mind that enforcing laws on turnstile-jumping, prostitution, public urination, “squeegee” harassment of motorists and other public “broken windows” blights turned around the crime rate in New York City starting in the mid-1990s and made the city a livable place again.
In political circles, only social conservatives appear to still vocally believe that laws should be enforced. Yet, most Americans agree with them. Even liberal New York City dwellers don’t want their subways turned back into law-enforcement-free zones.
Astonishingly, even the hardcore Marxist mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, criticized Cyrus Vance’s decision to stop prosecuting fare jumpers:
Mr. de Blasio, when asked on Friday about Mr. Vance’s plan, defended the status quo. He said most of the people being arrested had been stopped before for jumping turnstiles or had an outstanding warrant. “You do it a bunch of times, you’re asking for higher consequences,” he said at a news conference about Fourth of July safety preparations. The mayor also disputed the notion poor people had no choice but to jump turnstiles. “There’s no way in hell anyone should be evading the fare,” he said. “That would create chaos.”
When the idiot king of the Marxists thinks turnstile-jumpers should be arrested and prosecuted, one would think libertarians might for once notice getting smacked in the face by reality. But it’s not as if the libertarian and leftist donors who fund the anti-incarceration movement have ever set foot on public transportation in New York City — or any other place.
How few prosecutions are few enough to satisfy the anti-incarceration obsessives? Only a quarter of turnstile jumpers face anything other than a civil summons and $100 ticket now:
In Manhattan, 9,629 [people] were [criminally] charged with fare evasion in 2016, making it the second most common misdemeanor, right behind assault. A third of those defendants pleaded guilty, received time-served sentences and were released. Another third were released and had the charges dismissed after avoiding arrested [sic] for six months. About 1,700 were given community service. Only 320 were sentenced to jail, the vast majority of them for less than a month.
In other words, out of approximately 38,500 people caught evading transit fares in Manhattan last year, one quarter, or 9,629 were charged with a misdemeanor; approximately 3,200 or 8.3 percent pleaded guilty; approximately 3,200 or 8.3 percent had charges dismissed; 1,700 or 4.4 percent were given community service, and 320 or 0.8 percent were prosecuted and sentenced to jail – and according to no less a reluctant authority than Mayor de Blasio, these people are recidivists or criminals with outstanding warrants.
So, precisely how few prosecutions and guilty pleas would satisfy Cyrus Vance? Apparently, Vance feels that letting nearly 90 percent of offenders off with nothing more than community service or a fine is still far too harsh, even if, according to Mayor de Blasio, those few who are arrested are either repeat offenders or people hiding out from a criminal warrant – or, presumably, both.
It also isn’t hard to find examples of people with serious felony records who still walk free from committing turnstile-jumping and other crimes. A mere five days after Vance whined that he was putting far too many criminals behind bars, career criminal Alexander Bonds pulled on black gloves and a hoodie and assassinated a New York City police officer using a stolen gun.
Bonds was on parole for armed robbery when he killed NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia, a mother of three and the first woman officer to be killed in the city since 9/11 (2001). Yet despite being on parole for a gun crime and despite his long record of arrests and convictions, Bonds was apparently treated to Vance-style leniency at least five times in recent years, as he repeatedly received only citations for the very offenses that are supposedly being “over-prosecuted” in New York.
Bonds was a one-man walking argument for broken-windows policing. If New York City actually did prosecute offenders for minor crimes such as public urination, turnstile-jumping, and open container law violations, he would have been subject to arrest and revocation of parole at least five times before he had the opportunity to snuff out Officer Familia’s life.
But instead, despite being on parole, and despite the allegedly draconian application of these laws, Bonds repeatedly walked free.
Meanwhile, the information trickling out about Bonds’s lifestyle and criminal record is looking more and more damning for Vance and other prosecutors tasked with keeping New Yorkers safe – not to mention the politicians who made sure Bonds could skim off the public dole instead of having to settle down and get a job.
As tabloid papers with much smaller staffs run circles around the reporting by the New York Times, the Times has still not corrected even one of the falsehoods in its article, “Ex-Prisoner Finally Found Stability Before Killing Police Officer.”
“He had a girlfriend, and a job at a fast-food restaurant. His five-year stint on parole was almost up, and he had not had a run-in with the police in years,” Times reporters Michael Schwirtz and James C. McKinley gawkingly claimed. Except for those five times cited in every other newspaper.
At what point do people like Vance, Schwirtz, and McKinley define deviancy down far enough? If letting 90 percent of offenders go does not satisfy their appetites for leniency, would 99 percent be enough? Or do we still have a “police state” when we’re letting 100 percent of offenders off?
And then there is the question of who is paying for people like Alexander Bonds to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. In what I believe to be a first in crime reporting, the New York Daily News notes that Bonds was receiving multiple checks from taxpayers to subsidize his lifestyle:
The mail from New York State concerned a supplemental state check on top of Bonds’ Social Security money, provided by the federal government due to his “mental impairment.”
Bonds apparently spent his days and nights drinking, intimidating his neighbors, possibly selling drugs, possibly being involved with a gang, and acquiring collections of cellphones and sneakers. Police found five cellphones and a computer tablet in his apartment, and he apparently had the time and mental capacity to engage extensively in cop-hating social media trends. In other words, he wasn’t too mentally impaired or too indigent to do things he wanted to do, while relying on taxpayers to pay his bills. He was even planning a vacation to Puerto Rico, if anyone who knew him is to be believed.
The Times hasn’t come up with anything to confirm that he was actually working or had ever held a real job. It would be interesting – and also unique — if a reporter were to try to tally the amount of taxpayers’ dollars spent on Bonds throughout his life.
The tally of Bonds’s unprosecuted crimes keeps rising. The New York Post now reports 29 separate disciplinary actions on his prison record, four for the most serious offenses, between 2006 and 2010 alone. Yet despite these 29 crimes – at least four violent – he was not prosecuted for any of them, and so no time was added to his sentence.
Neither Mayor de Blasio nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) have called for a review of the state corrections system or the city prosecutors who repeatedly passed on opportunities to keep Alexander Bonds behind bars – or put him back there. Cuomo is not asking questions about why Bonds was paroled from prison early against the recommendation of the state parole board, but he is coming down on the hospital that briefly examined Bonds last week.
De Blasio paused from his bafflingly taxpayer-subsidized trip keynoting violent anti-American riots in Germany to claim that, despite the assassination of a cop, New York City was operating just fine without him. He’s probably never spoken truer words, but he should still be on the ground in the city suffering the consequences of his policies along with the rest of the buffoons who elected him.
As more information emerges about Alexander Bonds’s prolific criminal life, it would be nice to imagine that the murder of a nurse-turned-cop would wake New Yorkers up to the dangers of dismantling broken-windows policing and continuing down the path to 1990s-level public mayhem via judicial leniency.
But a city that elected Bill de Blasio mayor is probably beyond hope.
So far, the only low-level offense Bonds appears not to have committed since his release from prison is harassing motorists with a squeegee. Cyrus Vance and his peers had a lot of bites at the apple to rein in this violent man before the city faced another funeral for another brave cop. Vance and his anti-incarceration colleagues will hopefully be asked some very hard questions in coming days.