New York City Set to Boost Subway Police Presence as Part of Efforts to Combat Transit Crime
New York State and City officials are stepping up efforts to tackle crime and mental illness in the NYC subway with an increased police presence and new training for officers on engaging with the sans -shelter.
Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at a press conference on Saturday about plans to increase subway security, alongside New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell and chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Janno Lieber.
In recent weeks, Hochul has been hammered by Representative Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor of New York, about public safety. The gubernatorial election is just over two weeks away, on Nov. 8.
The new initiatives will include a significant investment from the state’s public emergency fund to support an increase of approximately 1,200 additional overtime hours on subway platforms and trains each day. However, officials did not say how much money the city will receive as part of the investment.
The transport authority will also employ unarmed security guards at turnstiles to increase security presence and deter fare evasion, Hochul said.
« We have a crime-fighting strategy, » Hochul said at the press conference. “We’ve built on proven law enforcement strategies, investing in new technologies that will make a difference. And we’re giving New Yorkers the support and help they need. This is what we call it: « Cops, cameras, care ». »
According to a joint press release.
New York City has been reeling from several high-profile violent crimes in recent months, including in its subway system, prompting officials to improve their crime-fighting strategies. Adams announced Friday that his administration will host a « high-level summit » at Gracie Mansion, which is the official residence of the New York mayor, on Saturday and Sunday to discuss solutions to crime in the city.
“New Yorkers need to be able to ride the subway safe in the knowledge that they are protected from crime, harassment and threats and that is what we are focused on,” Adams said at the press conference.
In September, Hochul announced an initiative to install two cameras in every subway car by 2024 to boost security coverage. The city has already installed more than 200 cameras across the system and is expected to install 100 more cameras in the coming days, the governor said.
The governor said Saturday train conductors will notify passengers when they approach a station where officers are present.
Earlier this year, Adams and Hochul unveiled a joint initiative to tackle crime and tackle homelessness in the subway that will expand health, police and community leader response teams across the city.
As part of ongoing efforts to address the homeless population sheltering in the subway, the New York State Office of Mental Health will create two new 25-bed units by November 1 as part of a new treatment program to help people with serious mental health issues. problems, officials said.
The units will provide recovery-oriented treatment and will be staffed with doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and other clinical and non-clinical staff, according to the joint press release.
The initiative includes the creation of a Community Residential Transition Program by the Office of Mental Health, which will support people leaving units as they reintegrate into society.
“The omnipresence of the police and the removal of those struggling with mental health issues are crucial to our second phase of this important plan,” Adams said at the press conference.
The state is also expanding crisis response training for transit and city police officers and paramedics to include best practices for engaging the homeless and how to transport those in need. of a psychiatric evaluation.
“This training will incorporate best practices for engaging the street and subway homeless population, help officers better understand the issues they face and how to address them, so they can defuse and ensure that people are getting the help they need, » Hochul said at the press conference.
Since last Monday, crime in the city’s subway has increased by more than 41% with 1,813 incidents occurring so far this year, compared to 1,282 during the same period last year, according to department statistics. NYPD.
Nine homicides have taken place on the city’s subway so far this year, officials said, and 40% of those responsible for the homicides had a history of mental health issues.
“It is our priority. Dealing with people who have mental health issues must be central to any plan moving forward,” Adams said.
While these numbers are high, they are compared to 2021 and 2020 when subway ridership was decimated by the pandemic, which forced the vast majority of subway ridership to stay home.
Subway ridership has been a major element when it comes to analyzing crime in the subway. Since the pandemic hit, ridership has seen massive declines, but has steadily increased.
Metro ridership has reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic, with an average of more than 3.5 million passers-by on weekdays and 3.6 to 3.8 million users in recent weeks . That’s about 70% of the pre-pandemic average of 5.5 million passengers, according to transit authority statistics.
In 2019, the year before Covid-19 gripped the city, there were 1,893 crimes from January 1 to October, and there were 2,524 crimes throughout the year, according to statistics from the police.
The highest number of transit crimes since police began tracking crime statistics was recorded in 1999, a total of 3,524 crimes from January to October, according to city data.
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York, the union representing the largest number of officers in the country, said the plan announced by Hochul and Adams on Saturday was « unsustainable. »
Lynch said the police department is more than 1,000 officers below budget and has 12.45% fewer base officers permanently assigned to subways than in 2020.
“The increased workload is crushing the remaining cops,” its statement continued. “The answer is not to rush them for more forced OTs. This is not about transferring responsibilities to the better paid but smaller MTA police department. And that certainly doesn’t replace them with unarmed security guards. »
Lynch said the city needs to raise wages and improve working conditions in order to recruit and retain enough police officers to fight crime in the subway.