When the first MetroCard system hit the subways in the mid 1990’s, I wondered how long it would take for any sort of organized scam to take hold in the various stations. However, the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations managed to keep subway crime to a minimum with their emphasis on quality of life crimes.
Indeed, by 1999, Rudolph Giuliani was boasting of an 18% drop in subway crime over the previous year, the last year of a six year 68% drop in subway crime. By 2006, of the 23 subway deaths, the vast majority came from illness or natural causes. Amazing when you consider just how easy it is to gum a door to always open or disable a card swipe. These scams would have appeared to be easy to run when Bloomberg removed the booth attendants in 2005-6. Yet, they failed to materialize. Was because of the Bubble Economy or the plainclothes police offers that seemed to be arresting everyone who thought about jumping a turnstile? Whatever the reason, the New York Hustler class appeared to be gone from the scene forever, a victim of the Prosecutor Mayor followed by King Midas Mike.
Sunday’s New York Post provided evidence to the contrary.
Swipers, as the hustlers are called, commonly jam the bill slot in MetroCard machines to force riders to buy a “swipe” to get past the turnstile.
They charge anywhere from $1 to $2. The fare is $2.50.
They exploit flaws in discarded cards that allow someone to get through after repeatedly swiping it, or they charge people to go through a service gate, transit workers said.
At the Fordham Road D station in The Bronx yesterday, The Post found several busted MetroCard machines unable to accept bills — and swipers more than willing to help out.
“I’ll let you in. Give me $2. Come on,” one man muttered.
Fabulous, thought. The long lost art of the New York Subway con man is back! However, the same article put some damper on my enthusiasm.
A mob recently confronted Brooklyn transit workers and threatened to “slice them up,” union sources said.
“It’s like the Thunderdome in some stations,” one worker said.
“Some are Crips, and some are Bloods,” said one worker, describing the situation at the Utica Avenue stations along the A, C and 3 lines in Brooklyn.
“I fear for the riding public. It’s dangerous.”
At first, I thought the Crips and Bloods needed to have a chat with Bernie ‘The Rabbit’ Steinberg, the world’s greatest hustler was in order. A perfect money making scam appears gone awry. Granted, this hustle would take a little time to be become lucrative being as it only made a buck or two at a clip. However, if the Grifter could make himself seem to be a likeable homeless guy just trying to make ends meet in these tough economic times, the ceiling for this hustle seems to be huge.
However, there are two major issues that now confront these ‘swipers’ the first being the violence. Easily fixed, work in two man crews and stay away from all other criminal activity involving anyone in the subways lest the NYPD break up a good scam. Because these crews aren’t stealing from Joe Average citizen, they are stealing from the “G” in this case the New York City Government/MTA which brings us to problem number two: scams, cons and hustles work on the sly, as the Old Man used to say. The second they go public, the game is up; thus my advice to the “swipers” – stay out of the papers!
Do these little things and this scam will be so good Bernie ‘The Rabbit’ Steinberg will smile wherever he is now.