Police to Step Up Patrol of New York Subway, Adams Says

New York City will require police officers to conduct more frequent and regular sweeps of the subway system and work with homeless outreach teams to reassure current riders and draw more riders into a transit system that needs them. said Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul. in a joint announcement Thursday.

Mr. Adams, a former traffic police officer, said he and police leaders would order city street-level patrol officers to do regular “visual inspections” of subway stations. Traffic officers, he said, would be told to ride and walk subways more frequently to check on passengers.

“Omnipresence is the key,” Adams said. “People feel that the system is not safe because they don’t see the officers. We are going to bring a visual presence to our systems. “

Ms. Hochul announced that the state would also develop teams of eight to ten social workers and medical professionals that could serve thousands of people living on the streets and in the subway.

The changes proposed by Mr. Adams are in line with the campaign promises he made: the redeployment of some officers throughout the transit system and a partnership with trained health professionals who can better address the needs of the homeless. and with mental illness.

It also reflects the commitment of Mr. Adams and Ms. Hochul to work together as a team and avoid the fights that characterized the relationship between their predecessors, former Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

As transit officials have tried to lure passengers who fled the system at the start of the pandemic and have yet to fully return, they have been struggling for more than a year with a persistent perception that the metro system does not It is safe.

For months, officials have emphasized that serious crimes in the system are at their lowest number in decades. As of November, felony crimes – murder, rape, robbery, assault, robbery and grand theft – were at their lowest combined total in 25 years.

But now there are far fewer passengers (passenger numbers in 2021 decreased more than 50 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels) and the crime rate per million passengers on weekdays has risen sharply in almost all areas compared to 2019, according to an analysis by the New York Times. of crime and the number of passengers.

The serious assault rate in 2021 increased by approximately 200 percent through November compared to the same period in 2019. The rate increased by approximately 125 percent for robberies, approximately 15 percent for grand theft (robberies committed without use or threat of force) and approximately 65 percent for general felonies.

The total number of felony assaults, in fact, was higher in 2021 than in 2019 despite the drop in passenger numbers. There were 423 serious assaults during the first 11 months of 2021, 50 more than in all of 2019.

Many of those incidents were high-profile attacks, such as train shutdowns or people being pushed onto the tracks, generating a host of headlines about subway violence.

Six murders had been reported on the subway system as of the end of November, the total for all of 2020 and double the three murders reported in 2019.

During Thursday’s announcement, Adams said he believed “actual crime and the perception of crime and the perception of disorder” fueled public fears about the safety of the subway system.

In an attempt to comfort passengers, Janno Lieber, Acting President and CEO of Metropolitan Transportation The authority, which operates the subway, called on police officers to better deploy officers to places on trains and on platforms where people may feel vulnerable.

According to a customer survey conducted by the transportation authority in the fall, 90 percent of subway passengers who had not yet returned to the trains said their concern about crime and harassment was a major factor in when and if would return.

Of those who had used the subway in some way, 64 percent, or nearly two-thirds, said they felt safer seeing uniformed police officers on platforms or trains.

But not all cyclists agree. Cariahnna Collazo, 26, a sociology student at the CUNY School of Professional Studies who lives in Queens, questioned whether Mr. Adams’ initiative was necessary.

“I don’t feel insecure and I don’t necessarily know if people want more police presence,” she said, standing in the Fulton Center subway complex in Lower Manhattan. “People I know personally feel that when there are more police on the train they are more tense.”

Last year, Mr. de Blasio deployed additional officers to the system after a series of high-profile crimes. In February, after two fatal stabbings and several other attacks, it added 500 officers to the roughly 2,500 already patrolling the system.

In May, just as the metro was ready to restore 24-hour service, which had been suspended during the pandemic, a series of outages prompted city officials to deploy another 250 agents to the system.

But subway surveillance has not been without controversy in New York, particularly amid years of talk about racial bias in law enforcement. A plan by Cuomo to deploy hundreds of additional officers in 2019 to tackle fee evasion sparked a debate over aggressive policing, and criminal justice reform activists argued that Cuomo was unfairly targeting poor New Yorkers.

In January 2020, State Attorney General Letitia James said she was investigating whether police were discriminating against people of color by enforcing fare evasion on the subway and buses. The investigation is ongoing, a spokesman said Thursday.

Mr. Adams’ plan does not involve hiring additional officers. He and city police commissioner Keechant Sewell said they would reassign some officers who are currently on desk jobs to patrol the subway system.

The two also said officers would target serious crime and refer problems with homeless people sleeping in the subway and at stations to outreach experts.

Officers, Mr. Adams promised, would not have “unnecessary engagement” with the homeless, nor would they be involved in “petty matters that would cause negative encounters” with passengers.

But several homeless advocates expressed skepticism that such a separation actually happens, especially since the increased police presence would likely come before Ms. Hochul’s outreach teams were deployed.

“In practice, this will likely increase the interaction between law enforcement and homeless New Yorkers,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group.

Homelessness on the streets and in the subway has persisted in New York despite the fact that the city, unlike other parts of the country, is required to provide shelter for all people.

Those on the street or in the subway tend to be the least open to city services, in many cases because they are wary of city shelters, which are often crowded and sometimes violent. The 24-hour subway service offers a warm and reliable alternative.

Ms. Hochul called homelessness in the city a “humanitarian crisis” and said she wanted to move quickly to create five teams, which she called “Safe Options Support” teams, to help address it.

But Craig Hughes, a supervising social worker at the Urban Justice Center, said outreach teams would be hampered by the lack of stable and permanent housing for the homeless population.

Although Ms. Hochul is committed to creating more affordable housing, including serviced housing for people at risk of homelessness, doing so will take time and the immediate need is great.

“It’s pretty much smoke and mirrors,” Hughes said. “Provide scope instead of housing, but frame it as something else, and then flood the trains with cops.”

The reports were contributed by Troy closson, Ashley southall Y Jonah E. Bromwich.

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