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Transit security officers check passengers tickets at the Broadway SkyTrain station in Vancouver on Tuesday morning. (Steve Lus/CBC)

As thousands of students return to school today, Transit Police in Metro Vancouver are cracking down on fare evaders with a new law that gives them more power to issue and collect escalating fines.

Under the new rules, both Transit police and Transit security will be able to issue fare evasion tickets, and about a dozen police and security staff were at the busy Broadway station on Tuesday morning checking passengers tickets.

Tickets will still start at $173, but will now increase to $213 unpaid after six months and to $273 if the fine isn't paid after one year.

TransLink will also be able to send unpaid tickets to collection agencies and ICBC will be able to refuse to renew or issue a driver's licence or vehicle registration to those with unpaid fines.

Previously fare evasion was considered a provincial offence and ICBC was responsible for the collection of fines, something they admitted they failed to enforce. 

Fare gate graffiti

TransLink is also installing new fare gates at transit stations to stop fare evasion, which are expected to start operating sometime in 2013.

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TransLink police alleged this suspect was stopping at each of the damaged faregates and appearing to be drawing or writing on the affected parts of the gates. (Transit Police)

But transit police are already looking for one vandal who damaged six new fare gates at the Marine Drive Station just before midnight on August 31. Police say it cost about $750 to remove the graffiti from the fare gates.

The suspect is described as  a white male, mid-20s, six feet tall, 190 pounds, with light brown hair, a fair complexion, wearing a red baseball hat, a black hooded sweatshirt with what appears to be light coloured graffiti-style writing on the chest and black shorts.