MICHAEL, a Frankford teen, is a poster boy for all the wrong reasons.
Last year, Michael - a pseudonym, because most of his offenses were committed as a juvenile - was cited 15 times in six months for hopping onto a SEPTA train without paying, law-enforcement sources said.
It got so bad, one SEPTA Transit Police officer told the Daily News, that the cashiers at his most frequently visited stations began to recognize him and would tip off police before he even approached their windows.
In November, six days after his 18th birthday, Michael was hit with his first fare-evasion citation as an adult. Three weeks later, he was cited again, this time with an added charge of resisting arrest, according to court records.
Now, he's seemingly straightened up and flying right: He hasn't been arrested since.
And to hear SEPTA tell it, cracking down on fare-evaders like Michael - who authorities say also has been involved in at least two cellphone thefts - has done wonders for reducing felonies committed on the city's subways.
"People jumping turnstiles are not heading to the library or going to see grandmom," said Chief Thomas Nestel, head of SEPTA's Transit Police. "They're getting on the system to engage in activity that is either criminal or disorderly."
Last year, Nestel's department recorded 5,127 arrests for fare evasion on the Broad Street Line and the Market-Frankford El - an increase of 66 percent over 2013, according to stats from SEPTA.
In the same period, felonies reported on those subway lines dropped to 390, a 16 percent decrease.
The latest data from SEPTA represent a continuation in the positive trend started in 2013, when Transit Police began cracking down on fare-evaders in an attempt to increase overall safety.
On the Broad Street Line and the El, 464 felonies were reported in 2013, when about 95 million people took the trains.
For comparison, Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stats show that in 2013 (the most recent full year in which data are available), 2,128 felonies were reported on a bus-and-rail system with 347 million riders.
On the Chicago Transit Authority, 1,260 felonies were reported in 2013 on a bus-and-rail system with about 530 million riders, according to CTA's annual report.
"I think the transit system is a laboratory for crime prevention, so we try different things and see if they work," Nestel said. "This seems to have had an effect."
Fare evasion itself is a summary offense, one that comes with a hefty $300 fine. But, Nestel argues, it acts as a gateway to more serious crimes.
"A person willing to commit a robbery isn't too concerned about not paying $2.25," Nestel said. "Giving a cashier the finger and hopping the turnstile isn't horrendous to them, but it's horrendous to us."
Felonies were at a decade high of 541 in 2012 - mainly cellphone robberies.
Nestel attributes the spike to two things: The growing popularity of high-value iPhones and other Apple products, and cellphone reception on the subway lines, which AT&T improved in 2009.
So, starting in 2013, Transit Police changed their M.O., taking a more "active deployment" across the Broad Street Line and the El.
At the end of the first full year with that new system, fare-evasion arrests had increased by 440 percent over 2012, and reported felonies had decreased by 14 percent, stats show.
There's no archetype for a fare-evader: Nestel's officers have arrested both cocky teenagers and women in their 60s, he said.
But what is consistent is where the fare evasions take place: A big chunk occur on the El between the York-Dauphin station and the Frankford Transportation Center, Nestel said.
And that's where Michael operated.
In his most recent arrest, Michael hopped the turnstile at Somerset station Dec. 5, court records show. When confronted by Transit Police, he put up a fight, requiring "substantial police force and effort to overcome [his] resistance," according to an affidavit filed in the case.
Later that night, when approached by a Daily News reporter, the teen said he had tried to skirt the fare because he had no money.
Even before that, Michael was well-known to Transit Police, given his long juvenile record. In addition to his repeated fare evasion, he has connections to a cellphone-theft ring, according to police sources.
He was charged as a juvenile in one robbery and was questioned in another after he was seen fleeing the scene with the actual thieves, those sources said.
Not every fare-evader is a repeat offender like Michael, and not every fare-evader goes on to commit a felony, Nestel admits.
But tracking and arresting them has been a strong crime-fighting tool for his department.
"It allows us to focus on a very small cohort of people who use the system for what it's not intended," he said.
"We have a whole team waiting for the opportunity to give them a cheese sandwich," he added, referring to the customary meal given to prisoners in holding cells.