Girl Arrested For Eating in Subway

Nov. 16, 2000 -- A 12-year-old girl found out the hard way that there’s no snacking allowed in the Washington, D.C. subway.

Seventh-grader Ansche Hedgepeth was handcuffed, booked and fingerprinted for eating French fries in anorthwest Washington subway station.

Ansche told police she knew she wasn’t supposed to eat in the station but didn’t think she would get arrested. Ansche’s mother Tracey Hedgepeth, who has written a complaint letter to the Metro Transit Police Department, said police went too far.

“I can’t believe there isn’t a better way to teach kids alesson,” she said. “The police treated her like a criminal.”

But Metro Transit Police Chief Barry J. McDevitt is unapologeticabout the girl’s arrest last month and others like it.

“We really do believe in zero tolerance,” he said.

Commuter complaints about unlawful eating on Metro cars and instations led McDevitt to mount an undercover crackdown onviolators. A dozen plainclothes officers cited or arrested 35people, 13 of them juveniles. Only one adult was arrested.

A Place Where Kids Go

Ansche said the station in northwest Washingtonwhere she was nabbed is “just a place where a lot of kids go.There’s a hot dog stand and Cafe Med, where I bought my fries.”

She said she took the elevator to the station with a friend. Asthe pair passed the station kiosk, a man stepped in front ofAnsche.

“He said: ‘Put down your fries. Put down your book bag,’ “Ansche said. “They searched my book bag and searched me. Theyasked me if I have any drugs or alcohol.”

Ansche said she has never been asked those questions or searchedlike that before. “I was embarrassed. I told my friend to call mymom, but I didn’t tell anybody else,” she said.

She said she never talked to the officer, although Metro policeinsist that she was asked whether she knew eating was against thelaw and that she said she did. They said anyone who doesn’t knowabout the law usually is given a warning first.

Signs warning that it is illegal to eat or drink on the cars andin the stations are posted in the Metro system.

She was taken to the detention center, where she was checked in,fingerprinted and held for her parents to pick her up.

If Ansche had been an adult, she simply would have receivedcitations for fines up to $300. But juveniles who commit criminaloffenses in the District of Columbia must be taken into custody,McDevitt said.

It is department policy to handcuff anyone who is arrested, nomatter the age, he said.

In 1987, Iran-contra figure Fawn Hall was given a $10 fine for eating a banana in the Metro Center subway station. She was not arrested.

ABCNEWS Radio and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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