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Fare dodgers turn to Facebook and Twitter to avoid ticket checks

The Local · 4 Aug 2011, 16:17

Published: 04 Aug 2011 16:17 GMT+02:00

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Some even describe the inspectors, who wear ordinary clothes, so that those riding the transit system illegally can avoid them before being challenged to show their tickets.

Several such groups have sprung up over recent months on social networks, especially in the larger cities of Hamburg, Munich and more recently Berlin.

Some messages are short and to the point.

"S21 Berliner Tor bound for Bergedorf," went one such warning posted on Facebook Wednesday by one of the 6,300 members of the "Hamburg fare dodgers" social network group.

Others are more detailed.

"Man with receding hairline, black jacket/trousers, white shirt. Second man with black trousers, jacket and light blue shirt. Third man with black trousers and light grey shirt. All aged between 35 and 45," went another warning.

In Munich, where some 13,700 people have joined the "MVV Blitzer" group, named after the initials of the local public transport system and the short-form German word for speed-camera, people using smartphones "tweet" their warnings.

In Berlin, a similar group was recently set up, but to date only has 20 members.

Public transport officials expressed disgust at such efforts to "out" their inspectors, but said they did not believe there would be much impact on ticket sales.

"Several hundred people work as inspectors for the HVV (Hamburg public transport) and no group can possibly keep track of them all," Gisela Becker, spokeswoman for the transit authority, said.

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"We're pretty relaxed about it," said her Munich colleague Beate Brennauer.

Inspectors change directions and lines so often that even with the use of Internet, fare dodgers cannot make out a pattern of their comings and goings, she said.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:05 August 4, 2011 by anurag_bagaria
Am amazed on how creative people can be!

I do not think the purpose of these groups is to "make out a pattern of their comings and goings" but rather just inform the group members of "the particular journey" which is being checked for tickets.

This seems very similar to calling or sending SMS to some Radio FM channel to inform about Traffic Jams and this information does help a lot of commuters.
17:50 August 4, 2011 by catjones
The inspectors could wear their blur suits.
22:31 August 4, 2011 by crm114
@anu_bag so you really think that enabling fare dodging actually helps a lot of commuters? If so that's very short sighted of you. Hmmm, I wonder if there is scope to set up a anti fare dodging community, distributing disinformation and causing scumbags to get off unnecessarily.
22:42 August 4, 2011 by wood artist

I think you have the right idea. Blast the sites with false information and turn the "tool" against itself. With a little effort every train could have an inspector and every trip could be interrupted again and again as new ones appear magically. Heck, I'll bet enough dodgers could be caught to pay for somebody to sit at a computer full time and create the phantom threats!

What fun.

08:58 August 5, 2011 by freechoice
how reliable is such info?
09:28 August 5, 2011 by Shiny Flu
The irony about all this is, to actually make use of this say "only good for 5 minutes" information, one would need to have afforded oneself a smartphone and a data plan of some sort.

So if you go the 'buy outright and use prepay' it's at least €180 for the phone and €10 per month just for data.

If you've got a contract well whatever you had to pay for the phone and at least €30 per month.

Oh, not to mention accessing HSDPA/3G networks uses up quite a bit of your phone's juice so add in having to charge it as soon as you get home.

Financially make sense doesn't it?
09:53 August 5, 2011 by klosck
@Shiny Flu - Not to call you out, but I think your cost-benefit analysis is a little flawed.

Even if you went out and bought the €180 smartphone for the sole purpose of fare dodging, and you were able to use it to dodge 2 fares successfully, then the phone would pay for itself :)

However, I agree,..In reality, it seems unlikely that the information would be reliable enough to depend on...

Also, say someone did warn you about the undercover inspector...would you be able to avoid him without getting his attention?
10:32 August 5, 2011 by jg.
IANAL but, by posting such messages which help others to commit crimes, those sending messages may be considered as participants in the same fraudulent activities.

The situation is different from warning motorists of speed traps in that those warnings encourage drivers to slow down and keep within speed limits, at least for some sections of road.
12:50 August 5, 2011 by ECSNatale
I think the fine is too low in the first place. Fare dodgers are a blight to the transportation system. I also do not see how Facebook and Twitter can allow pages that promote illegal activity. That seems like it should be a violation of the terms of service and if I were to work at any of the public transport authorities, I would take the social network sites to task for allowing such pages to exist.

To take it to an extreme, let's start some "pretty girls walking home alone" sites or " people who left my store carrying large amounts of cash". To allow a social network site to exist that in anyway encourages illegal behavior is ridiculous.
02:51 August 16, 2011 by willowsdad
ECSNatale: what's "illegal behavior" is often quite arbitrary. Are there social media sites for drug use? In many countries, expressing anti-government opinions is "illegal", etc. Not that fare-beating is so good, but it is nice to see people acting in solidarity with each other, rather than informing.
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