RTA Board Tables Proposed Crackdown on Juvenile Fare Violators

Tom Breckenridge, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Nov. 17, 2010

RTA’s board has tabled, and effectively killed, a controversial proposal to crack down on youths who aren’t paying fares on rapid-transit lines.

George Dixon, chairman of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority board, said Tuesday that he feared the policy would fall too heavily on young black males and minority communities served by the transit lines.

Dixon said he and at least two other black male members of RTA’s nine-member board had concerns about sending young fare-jumpers to the county’s juvenile court.

Minority leaders have long been concerned about the disproportionate number of blacks in the county’s juvenile and adult court systems.

The fare-jumping policy, supported by RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese, would not have resulted in a criminal violation for youths who didn’t pay the fine. Instead, they would have performed community service, possibly at RTA facilities, under the juvenile court’s diversion program.

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RTA officials believe they are losing tens of thousands of dollars to youths abusing an honor-based fare system on the HealthLine and Red Line rapids.

Calabrese proposed a plan under which young scofflaws, and their parents, would receive notice of a $50 fine. They would have 30 days to pay or face having the case referred to juvenile court.

RTA transit police have few options now in dealing with young scofflaws, other than arresting them. Other transit systems levy fines on them, Calabrese noted.

Before the vote, an ACLU official asked RTA officials to consider the “racial implications” of a policy that could add to the disproportionate number of blacks and other minorities in the juvenile court system.

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Dixon said tabling the policy had nothing to do with concerns expressed recently by the Cleveland NAACP that an increasing number of young black men are being arrested on some RTA lines.

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