Two men have been arrested in New York for ‘man-spreading’ – the act of taking up too much space on the underground or metro system. The arrests have come to light in a report on the efficacy of ‘broken window’s policing in New York.
Man-spreading came to prominence through a politically correct public-shaming Tumblr campaign which described the practice as “a classic among public assertions of privilege”, although it was the AM New York blog which coined the term in October last year. Breitbart London covered it as well.
That blog notes that taking up more than one seat on the metro is technically illegal under Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) disorderly conduct rules, if doing so interferes with the comfort of other passengers. Passengers caught man-spreading can find themselves in line for a $50 fine, although it is not clear whether any passenger has ever been fined for taking up more room than they need.
But thanks to the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), which exposes “discriminatory and abusive practices of the NYPD” with particular reference to people of colour, it has now transpired that at least two men have been arrested for the offence and summoned to court.
PROP regularly sits in on local court proceedings to monitor the cases passing through the system. On one recent visit to the arraignment division of Brooklyn’s criminal court, volunteers found that two Latino men had been arrested on the charge of “man-spreading”. The judge issued an order which effectively wipes the charge from their record if they don’t get arrested again, but noted her scepticism over the charges thanks to the time of the arrests, saying: “12:11am, I can’t believe there were many people on the subway”.
Other ‘offences’ which got people arrested included walking between underground carriages even when the train was stationary, putting feet, or a foot, on seats, and singing. It also details the case of a dance troupe who are regularly arrested: “The leader of a subway dance group — they don’t perform in the cars but in more open spaces in large stations like Union Square and Times Square — reports that the police regularly harass his dancers, all of whom are black and brown.
“The officers sometimes arrest them, cuff and confine them, on charges like disorderly conduct and “making too much noise”. They are always held overnight and the judge invariably dismisses the charges when they appear in court. “A waste of time and money for everybody,” the group’s leader says.”
Robert Gangi, director of PROP, said he thinks the arrests are quota-driven. “My very strong sense, and I think other people see it the same way, is that it’s quota-driven,” he said. “These kinds of tickets or arrests are low-lying fruit, they’re easy pickings.”
He added: “We’ve never seen someone ticketed or arrested because they were actually inconveniencing somebody.”
The PROP report includes the case of a police officer who claimed he had a quota to make. “A police officer issued a summons to a man for walking between the cars of a stopped subway train,” the report reads. “The officer apologized: “I’m sorry, but it’s the 26th of the month and I have to make my quota.””
PROP believes the ludicrous cases are a damning indictment of New York’s ‘Broken Windows’ policing method, which they describe as having “terrible human consequences”. Based on a 1982 article, the policing model focuses on the role that disorder plays in ushering in more serious crime. The idea is that, by eliminating low-level disorders (such as broken windows), more serious crime can be prevented.
But the model is controversial. The Centre for Evidence-Based Crime Policy warns: “there is concern that any effectiveness of broken windows policing in reducing crime (where the evidence is mixed) may come at the expense of reduced citizen satisfaction and damage to citizen perceptions of the legitimacy of police.”
Commenting on the case for the Telegraph, Joel Snape, editor of Men’s Fitness said: “The main problem with arresting people for anti–social behaviour is that anti-social behaviour shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.
“Criminal acts have clear boundaries, as in the case of murder, tax evasion, or torrenting episodes of Game Of Thrones; sitting with your legs too wide on a subway seat does not.”