Arrests alone — though drastically increasing — were not solving the problem, Mr. Bassin said. He said many of the dancers interviewed in the planning stages of the new effort viewed being arrested as part of the cost of doing business. The statistics appear to bear that out: A quarter of those arrested in 2015 for dancing on the subway had previously been arrested for the dancingI should mention I know Mr. Bassin, a lawyer in the mayor's office. This is a very Broken Windows approach:
Ian Bassin, approached the Police Department with an idea for addressing the problem — which results in regular complaints from passengers — by providing an alternative to the criminal justice system.And I like that even de Blasio is getting better at understanding Broken Windows:
“Broken windows doesn’t mean simply arresting our way out of every minor infraction,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “It means focusing on quality of life while providing pathways for all New Yorkers to reach their full potential.”One reason I like this program is it does not limit police discretion. It's still up to the officer. But now cops can actually help solve the problem (and most people, myself included, think it is a problem) rather than just choose between basically no enforcement and arresting a kid for dancing on the subway:
Though officers may still pursue arrests or issue summonses for soliciting on trains, they have been urged to consider the alternative approach: handing out the cards with information about the dance initiative.Also of note:
Every transit officer now carries the small, brightly colored square cards. Roughly 200 have been handed out to dance groups since officers began the effort in May.
“It’s very refreshing for us and our officers to have another alternative when we’re out there,” said Joseph Fox, the chief of the Police Department’s Transit Bureau. “What this program has given us is something in between warning and admonish, and enforcement.”
As a result, Chief Fox said, arrests of dancers are down, 185 through late August, compared with 264 over the same period in 2014. (There were 153 arrests of dancers in all of 2013.)
Chief Fox said he and Mr. Bassin looked into the backgrounds of the men who were arrested or given summonses for dancing on the trains and found that, while a large number had had some contact with the criminal justice system, it was mostly for minor offenses such as fare beating. A smaller fraction, roughly 25 percent, had been previously arrested for a serious crime like robbery, burglary or felony assault.The jury is still out on whether the program is working. And success can be judged a few way: fewer complaints on the subway, fewer conflicts on the subway (I've seen a dancer punch a guy for not moving out of the way on a busy train), more people being able to enjoy the right to get home without illegal distractions, fewer people entering the criminal justice system, and potentially more dance potential. Some of the guys do have serious skillz, but they're probably not going to be "found" on the subway. They might be in a city-sponsored public performance space.
Now if only they could make a city-sponsored public performance space for all the subway beggars...