Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Failure to Pay

There was another apparent fight/stabbing last night at Gallery Place/Chinatown. Seems, however, the Metro police have smaller fish to fry.

Has this sort of thing happened to anyone else (2 stories)?

From Anonymous:
I am looking for any information on citations for “failure to pay” Metro fare.

One evening after work, during rush hour, I was leaving New York Ave. I swiped my SmarTrip, walked through the turnstile and was headed out when I heard “Excuse me, excuse me …”

I kept walking until the voice got louder and louder. I turned around, wondering who was not listening to this voice. I was surprised to see a Metro police officer looking directly at me.

He asked me to return to the booth, which I did. He asked to see my SmarTrip, which I gave him.

He entered the booth where I couldn’t see what he was doing, nor could I speak with him.

When I opened the door to ask him questions, he told me to shut it.

Finally, he opened the door informed me my card was broken and asked for my identification.

I figured it was to see if that card was really registered to me or not.

I handed him my license, and he informed me that my card was not registering and that he was issuing me a citation.

The whole situation was weird. It took a while for it to sink in that he was actually giving me a ticket for not paying even though I had a SmarTrip.

I asked him what the citation was for, and he said it was for “failure to pay.”

I had to keep opening the booth door to ask questions, and he kept repeating that I could ask questions at the hearing and to shut the door.

I asked why the fare gates opened if the card was broken, and he said I was “piggybacking.”

When I tried to explain that my spouse and I have several SmarTrip cards between us, but that I was pretty certain this one had money on it, he ignored me, and told me to explain it at the hearing.

He said I held my hand weird when I was leaving, and I pointed out that in the past, my card has registered from my coat pocket, from my wallet and from my purse. Again, he told me to shut the door and explain it at the hearing.

I was really upset when I read the citation--which was for $50--and included language saying that if I don't pay the ticket or show at the hearing, an warrant for my arrest will be issued.

I feel like a criminal.

I decided to follow up with a court date.

To arrange that, I had to go to one of several locations listed on the back of the citation. When I got there, the people working there had clearly not had someone come in with a citation like mine from Metro.

When I explained my situation, one of them commented, "Why didn't he just have you go pay for a new ticket?"

I waited and waited and eventually they gave me a court date.

Then she exchanged my citation for a sheet of paper which listed my name and the following:

"You have been arrested and charged with the following criminal offense: Failure to pay established fare rail."

It went on "You are being released from police custody upon your promise that you will appear as further specified below..."

I had to sign it on a blank that said "signature of arrested person." I pointed out that I wasn't arrested. The person working there said, "Well they gave you a citation instead of bringing you in."

Seriously, I don't even think I've had a moving violation in the 15-plus years I've lived in this city, and now I'm signing at the line that says "arrested person."

Anyway, my court date is approaching quickly and any thoughts or suggestions would be most welcome.
Here's another, similar sounding case From Leslie:
On Jan. 27, around 5:25 p.m., I got off an Orange Line train at New Carrollton.

I ride the Metro every day to and from work.

However, on this particular day, Metro Transit Police were at New Carrollton.

As I swiped my SmartTrip, card to exit, a Metro Transit Police officer approached me and asked to see my SmartTrip card.

Per his request, I gave it to him. He examined the card and asked “how much money do you have on your card?”

Puzzled by his questions and needing to catch a 5:35 bus, I answered “about 5 bucks.”

He then asked me to follow him.

He escorted me to the station manager's booth, scanned my card and said “I’m going to let you go today.”

There are several issues with this incident:

1.What violation (if any) was committed?
2.Why didn’t he state the problem (if any)?
3.What exactly did the officer mean by “let you go today? ” Was I being detained for swiping my SmartTrip card?

This incident felt like harassment.

As a regular rider, I did not appreciate the embarrassment of being stopped by an officer so that he can 1) look at my card (my card looks like everyone else's, I'm sure), 2) ask me to follow him to the booth so that he could "check" my card, and 3) infer that I was being detained for an infraction he did articulate.

People are being beaten in the Metro, the Orange Line is being robbed, people are getting hit by trains, there are flashers on the Metro, and the Metro Transit police are harassing a working girl about a SmartTrip card?

It causes me to believe that all the crime is happening on the Metro because the Transit Police spend their time harassing patrons and "examining" SmartTrip cards.
Metro cop's misplaced rage?

Other items:
Woman fends off would be iPhone robbery (TBD)
Teens on Metro, they do grow up (WaPo)
Metro plans Blue Line split (WaPo)
Pipe design flaw hurts Metro's ability to fight fires (Examiner)
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