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MBTA Police are seeking the man (above left) who they say snapped open a fare gate at Science Park Station yesterday. Police say that Daniel J. Fritts of Somerville (above right) kicked a gate at Courthouse Station. Fritts has pleaded not guilty to malicious destruction of property.
MBTA Police are seeking the man (above left) who they say snapped open a fare gate at Science Park Station yesterday. Police say that Daniel J. Fritts of Somerville (above right) kicked a gate at Courthouse Station. Fritts has pleaded not guilty to malicious destruction of property. (MBTA)

MBTA cracks down, fines fare evaders

Says gate vandals caught on camera

A Somerville man allegedly kicked his way through a fare gate at the Silver Line's Courthouse Station on Tuesday and was arrested about 12 minutes later, MBTA officials said yesterday.

Another man allegedly snapped open a fare gate at Science Park Station on the Green Line early yesterday morning, officials said.

Both incidents were caught on camera. MBTA Transit Police were still searching for the second man.

Officials pointed to the videos yesterday as proof that fare evaders can run but they cannot hide from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's surveillance cameras.

"Fare evasion costs everybody money," Daniel A. Grabauskas, the MBTA's general manager, said yesterday while showing video of the incidents to reporters. "We want [fare evaders] to know that we are going to get you on camera, we're going to bring you in, and we're going to make you pay for the vandalism or other problems you've caused."

MBTA Transit Police have issued 489 noncriminal citations for fare evasion this year, said Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman.

Fines range from $15 for the first offense up to $250 for subsequent offenses, Pesaturo said. If fare evaders have not paid the fine within a year of receiving their citation, they will receive a notice of nonpayment and be told of their right to a hearing. Ninety days after that, the MBTA will report them to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which cannot renew their license to operate a motor vehicle until the fine is paid, according to state law.

A rider who saw someone kick through the gate at Courthouse Station about 10:50 p.m. Tuesday called MBTA Transit Police, who reviewed video of the incident and arrested Daniel J. Fritts, 25, at South Station, Grabauskas said.

Fritts pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of malicious destruction of property in South Boston District Court and was ordered held on $800 cash bail pending an Aug. 20 pretrial hearing.

Each reinforced-glass panel of the 66-inch-high fare gates, which slide open when a rider inserts a CharlieTicket or swipes a CharlieCard, is about as strong as a car windshield, Grabauskas said.

Installation of the gates, completed in December 2006, combined with an expanding network of surveillance cameras that keep an eye on all fare gates and vending machines have boosted the MBTA's revenues 5 percent to 7 percent, Grabauskas said.

Fare evaders who destroy MBTA property have to pay for the damage they cause, Grabauskas said.

"The guy who broke the gate [at the Science Park station] would have had to pay $1.70 to take that trip," Grabauskas said. "When we catch him, that trip is going to cost him just shy of $2,000."

This year is the first in which MBTA employees and police have been able to issue citations for fare evasion, based on a law that went into effect in January, Pesaturo said.

In previous years, fare evaders were asked to pay their fare and were charged with offenses such as disorderly conduct if they resisted, Pesaturo said.

Riders have broken the new gates four times while trying to avoid paying their fare, Pesaturo said.

Ryan Haggerty can be reached at rhaggerty@globe.com.

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