Police are cracking down on subway scammers who jam MetroCard vending machines and then sell “swipes” through turnstiles — and cops will be turning the heat up even more, officials said.
Through last week, NYPD Transit Bureau officers had arrested 260 scammers on criminal tampering charges this year — a 45% increase over the same time period in 2013, a police spokesman said.
The MTA and police, meanwhile, are working on a plan that would force such vandals to pay restitution, covering costs associated with repairing disabled MetroCard machines that they knock out of service to drum up business for their illicit trade, police said.
“We are going to make a big dent in the problem of vandalism in the subway,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told the Daily News recently.
Illegal swipers and fare-beaters are a chronic plague that deprives the authority of tens of millions of dollars in revenue a year.
The swipers and disabled MetroCard vending machines also are among the quality-of-life issues that frustrate scores of subway riders — and make some feel uneasy, Bratton said.
The intractable problem suggests to some riders the system isn’t safe, he said.
Bratton said his goal is to “diminish the quality-of-life stuff that gets them unsettled,” putting swipers, subway gropers and the homeless population in that category.
One swiper hot spot is the uptown side of the 6 line at E. 116th St. and Lexington Ave.
“The machines are always messed,” said Brian Jordan, 53, a construction worker. “They are always jammed up. You walk down there, and there are guys selling swipes all the time.”
The situation is so bad that Jordan uses the 110th St. station when going uptown, even though it’s a longer walk from his home.
The downtown side of the station has a staffed token booth next to the machines. Those devices aren’t tampered with, riders said.
On Friday morning, a MTA mechanic — with an armed guard at his side — opened up and worked on one of the two MetroCard machines on the uptown side.
Shortly after the transit workers left the station, a young man with a lot of time on his hands and a stack of MetroCards appeared. He loitered near the turnstiles and appeared to be nonchalantly looking at riders to determine if any might be undercover police officers.
Apparently satisfied the coast was clear, the young man went over to the MetroCard machines. A reporter on the opposite platform couldn’t see what the young man was doing at the keyboards, but in a short time, the machines were no longer accepting dollar bills.