Fugitive fare dodger captured on foot at Polish border

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11 Oct, 2010 Updated Mon 11 Oct 2010 16:19 CEST
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A fugitive public transportation fare dodger has been arrested while trying to enter Germany on foot from Poland, police said on Monday. He will now serve almost five months in jail for failing to pay thousands in fines.

The 26-year-old Berliner was caught in Frankfurt an der Oder, an eastern German town bordering Poland, as he tried to enter the country around 6:35 pm on Saturday, according to a statement by Berlin police.

The fare-dodger, or Schwarzfahrer in German, had been nabbed riding trains without a ticket 11 times, and was twice convicted by a Tiergarten district court, racking up fines of €3,084.

Two warrants had been issued for his arrest after he failed to pay, the report said.

Because he failed to produce the cash, on Sunday morning police delivered him to the Frankfurt an der Oder prison, where he will serve 147 days behind bars.

Most German public transportation operates on an honour system, where passengers do not need a ticket to board. Instead, plainclothes officers randomly board vehicles to carry out checks, doling out fines of some €40 or more to those caught without valid tickets.

The lack of turnstiles or other formal ticket enforcement makes fare dodging simple for those who don’t care to part with their pocket change.

The Berlin city administration offers a community service program for some of those who can’t pay the fine for fare dodging, though. Schwitzen statt sitzen, which means “sweating instead of doing time,” allows the small-time criminals to work off their fines.

But many of fare dodgers, some of whom officials say have drug and alcohol problems, opt not to pay or work off the fines, landing themselves in prison.

The VDV alliance of German transportation providers has encouraged cities to increase fines to discourage fare dodging, but last year Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reported that the capital’s jails were already clogged with the petty criminals unable to pay their fines.

The Local/rm



2010/10/11 16:19

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