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March 22, 2024, 5:00 AM

It took 6 cops and 15 minutes to arrest a single fare-dodger: NYPD reveals difficulty of MTA’s turnstile-jumping crisis

By Dana Kennedy

It took six undercover cops 15 minutes to restrain a single fare-dodger at New York’s busiest station — a scene that illustrates just how difficult it is to tackle the MTA’s crisis.

The Post watched at the Times Square station as the man refused to provide ID and yelled, “Bruh! Bruh! You can’t do this to me, no!” in front of commuters — then dropped to his knees, forcing cops to cuff him and finally drag him to the precinct as he continued shouting.

The suspect turned out to have a bench warrant for criminal possession of stolen property and behaved so erratically that cops sent him to Bellevue Hospital for observation.

And in the 15 minutes it took the entire squad to deal with him, The Post watched fare-beater after fare-beater jump the turnstile or walk through the open emergency door at just one entrance in the Times Square station.

The spectacle came hours before one subway fare-beater blasted two NYPD cops with Mace at the East 116th Street station.

The arrest was part of a two-hour deployment watched by The Post at Times Square of NYPD plainclothes transit cops, who issued 10 summonses and made three arrests for theft of service — part of a crackdown on fare-beaters designed to root out violent criminals and repeat offenders.

“I wish we could stop everyone but we can’t, but we conduct these targeted operations at stations where we’re having complaints or we’re having high crime to get the recidivists off the street, even just for a day,” Inspector Jonathan Bobin, commanding officer of the Transit Bureau’s Special Operations Division, told The Post.

“When you’re a paying customer, you see other people not paying. It’s one of several things that can lead to a sense of disorder and subway system.”

The Post has learned that the subway’s most prolific criminal currently is Eric Harvey.

He was the biggest transit offender of last year and has racked up more than 200 busts in his lifetime — all of them for tampering with MetroCard vending machines or for selling swipes for cash.

But the most recent MTA data show that fare-beating in the subway and on buses cost straphangers an eye-watering $690 million last year.

An estimated 14% of subway riders jumped the turnstiles between July and September last year — the highest level recorded in the five years of MTA data published online.

And 41% of bus riders commuted without paying during the third quarter of 2023.

Bobin said his teams make thousands of arrests and issue thousands of summons to some of the worst subway cheats every year.

The fare-beater evasion squad issues fines between $50 to $100 for skipping out on the $2.90 fare.

They wear bodycams under their jackets and flash their shields to many of those they apprehend who don’t believe they are cops.

“The goal is not necessarily making arrests, it’s to correct behavior,” Bobin said.

In fact, two different sets of tourists, one group Haitian and one French, who seemed confused by their surroundings were allowed to go on their way by the transit cops after they determined they hadn’t deliberately come through the emergency gate without paying.

“We’re out here and we’re doing our job and we’re stopping large numbers of people,” Sgt. Fernando Cordero, who was heading one of the units Tuesday, told The Post.

“It may seem like we’re up against big odds but we’re here, we’re a real presence and the average person who gets caught is usually too embarrassed to do it again.”

The link between far evasion and crime was dramatically highlighted last week when Dajuan Robinson, 36, first went through the emergency gate at Nostrand Avenue — then allegedly started a violent rush-hour fight on board an A train approaching Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in Brooklyn, which ended with him being shot with his own gun.

Two of the undercover transit team officers in Tuesday’s Times Square deployment were at the station when the incident unfolded — and one had to give Robinson CPR.

“It was a crazy situation, no doubt about it,” the officer told The Post. “I hadn’t quite seen anything like that, but it’s the type of thing we face every day.”

But when it comes to the 1,200 specialized transit cops, officers say it’s just not a fair fight as they try to stop fare-beating at 472 stations on the city’s 24 lines.

Transit cops are being boosted by 1,000 regular NYPD officers in a “policing surge” at the busiest times, while Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered 1,000 more state troopers, National Guard members and MTA officers — who usually patrol the Metro North and LIRR networks — to carry out bag checks on the subway.

But the cop presence is still a “drop in the bucket,” a source familiar with subway policing told The Post.

“They just aren’t going to be able to patrol a system that big to any real degree of satisfaction even with the surge policing,” the source said.

“As we saw last year, additional police presence in the subways drives crime down. But it is just not sustainable to rely on overtime to provide that presence,” said Patrick Hendry, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union representing the city’s cops.

“There just aren’t enough cops, period.”