Soundings

News from the Underground
Spring 1994

The New York City Transit Authority’s latest quality-of-life effort aims to discourage panhandling by more vigorously enforcing the subway’s ban on begging, sending social workers onto trains to connect beggars with social programs, and discouraging riders from giving money to panhandlers.

“Panhandling on the subways is illegal—no matter what you think,” say advertisements posted in subway cars. “Give to the charity of your choice, but not on the subway.” Whether because of the TA’s efforts or a change in the public mood, the message seems to be getting through. “New York used to be a generous place,” one beggar told Newsday columnist Ellis Henican. “But people just don’t give anywhere like they used to. You could probably make as much working at McDonald’s.”

Meanwhile, reported felonies on the subways fell by 11.2 percent between 1992 and 1993, bringing serious crime to its lowest level since 1979. The numbet of people arrested for carrying drugs or weapons was up, but the Transit police attribute this trend to a crackdown on turnstile jumpers, who often turn out to be carrying contraband.

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