"Punishing the poor does not create a safer environment. Instead it threatens the very foundation of our community," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Tuesday, attaching a letter telling New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ditch his $249 million plan to increase law enforcement presence at subway stations.
The plan entails hiring 500 additional cops to crack down on fare evasions. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jose Serrano were among the signatories on the letter.
When Cuomo announced the plan, his office highlighted the need to protect transit workers and cost of fare evasion. "From 2013 and 2017, assaults reported by New York City Transit workers have increased by 15.2 percent, and lost revenue from fare evasion increased from $105 million in 2015 to $225 million in 2018," his office said.
"New data released today shows the upward trend is continuing with year to date totals reaching $243 million in the 12-month period ending in March 2019."
Ocasio-Cortez recognized the uptick in assaults but argued Cuomo approached the issue incorrectly. "While overall crime is down in the system, there has been a significant uptick in assaults on bus and subway workers," the letter claims. "Addressing this legitimate concern can be accomplished without criminalizing poverty."
The letter implores Cuomo to direct officers to focus on assaults rather than patrolling turnstiles. "Utilization of a more finessed deployment approach that focuses on the reduction of assaults against transit operating personnel would protect workers and save the MTA sorely needed operating dollars," the letter reads.
The letter also urges Cuomo to instead invest more resources in an updated transportation system. "Better and greater modes of transportation grant access to economic opportunity and make New York City more equitable," they said.
In a statement provided to Fox News, the MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye pushed back on Ocasio-Cortez's letter.
"We will not engage in politics when it comes to public safety: New Yorkers deserve to have reliable service and feel secure on our system - these priorities are one and the same," Foye said.
"We are seeing vast improvements in subway on-time performance, but hate crimes have risen more than 50 percent, robbery is up 11.5 percent, aggravated harassment is up 167 percent and the TWU [Transport Workers Union] has reported an increase in assaults on workers of 39 percent. Adding additional uniformed police officers across the MTA will help ensure safety and quality of life for our eight million daily customers."
“Adding additional uniformed police officers across the MTA will help ensure safety and quality of life for our eight million daily customers.”