There’s no need for a key to unlock this door. (Photo by flickr user rlboston)
Over the weekend, Pete Donohue of the Daily News wrote about a creative form of fare-beating. Donohue found that every emergency exit door can be unlocked by using the same key, and he discovered that some Transit workers have sold copies of those keys for $27. It’s a pretty outrageous abuse of power, and as one might imagine, the MTA and NYPD are on the case.
Donohue has more:
The Daily News tried out the key at 15 stations across the city, including Yankee Stadium on the B line in the Bronx, Junction Blvd. on the No. 7 in Queens and 68 St. on the Lexington Ave. line. It worked every time…
Cops confiscated 33 gate keys from perps arrested last year for illegally selling trips or other offenses, according to NYPD spokesman Detective William Winning. So far this year, police have arrested 15 suspects with subway gate keys, Winning said.
But the low-level thieves, knowing arrests and brief jail stints are inevitable, plan ahead by stashing away extra keys and starting up their scam all over again. “They all have copies on standby so if they get locked up, when they come back out on the street, they’re still able to make money,” said the Brooklyn man who had a copy. “It’s their bread and butter.”
On Sunday, the News followed up by asking the person-on-the-street and a few outraged politicians their thoughts on the development. Lo, and behold, the story became about terrorism and security breaches. “This could be a major security problem if these keys get into the wrong hands,” James Vacca, head of the City Council’s transportation committee, said.
Councilman Peter Vallone seemed willing to do away with due process over this issue. “This is a serious security breach,” he said. “We know terrorists are planning to attack our subways, and the MTA and NYPD better find these magical morons quickly, and then make them disappear for a year in jail.”
Others blamed those with the audacity to sell the key. “It’s not safe at all,” Mary Ettienne, a Brooklyn resident, said to the News. “They don’t know what kind of people that are buying the key. They’re putting people’s lives in danger.”
But is this theft of fare really a terrorism security issue? It’s possible but exceedingly unlikely that some petty crooks who work for the MTA could wind up selling a key to a terrorist, but it’s far more likely for a terrorist to simply swipe into the system without violating yet another law or raising eyebrows with an illegal transaction to acquire a key. Vallone may be appealing to populist fears over a subway attack, but his comments are divorced from reality. Why would a terrorist go through the trouble of buying a key when the subways are porous as they already are?
The more alarming news here is that Transit employees are selling the keys. Barry Kluger, the MTA’s Inspector General, plans to investigate, and when he finds those responsible, they should — and will — be fired immediately. That’s the bigger story here.