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Guerrilla ads take on anti-fare evasion ads in city’s subways

September 19, 2019 Alex Williamson
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Snitches get stitches… or at least a gentle rebuke from a guerrilla ad campaign that’s been spotted on trains and subway stations around the city. 

The signs, which have been posted to social media and shared widely, are made to look like the ads the MTA introduced in June to announce increased enforcement of fare evasion laws, with the same sans-serif black-and-purple font on a white background and the agency’s logo in the corner. 

Instead of threatening turnstile-jumpers with a $100 fine or instructing riders who need the gates not to hold them open for others, the guerrilla ads encourage riders to swipe it forward. 

“See someone evading the fare? There could be a reason,” one of the guerilla ads tweeted by user @prettyboy_zhao reads. “Maybe they don’t have $2.75. Maybe they were laid off. Maybe there’s an emergency and no time to refill. Maybe the ticket machines are broken.”

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“Don’t Snitch. Swipe,” the ad continues. 

A link at the bottom leads to a 2017 report from the Community Service Society on fare evasion arrests in Brooklyn. 

The report uses data from Brooklyn Defender Services and The Legal Aid Society that shows young black men made up half of all fare evasion arrests in Brooklyn in 2016, despite representing only 13.1 percent of poor adults. 

The report goes on to detail how high-poverty black communities are disproportionately targeted for fare evasion enforcement.  

A spokesperson for the Community Service Society said the organization is not behind the guerrilla campaign. 

According to more recent data from the NYPD, more than 60 percent of people arrested for fare evasion in the second quarter of 2019 were black or African American. Another 25 percent were listed as “Hispanic.” 

In total, people of color accounted for more than 85 percent of fare evasion arrests between April and June, though the arrests were down overall citywide. 

This isn’t the first time an unsanctioned ad campaign has co-opted the MTA’s signage. Last year, a series of guerrilla posters resembling the agency’s simple black-and-white platform signs were posted at stations around the city, calling attention to racist incidents that had taken place at each location. 

On Twitter, most people seemed to be on board with the new ads’ message. 

“I will take this over the hundredth cutesy ‘now THIS is adulting!’ ad for startup bedsheets,” @hyenasandgin tweeted.

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