N.Y. MTA Urges More Police With Subway Assaults at 23-Year High

The head of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority again called for more city police officers with felony assaults on its subway network at the highest in 23 years.

The New York Police Department has 2,663 officers patrolling MTA’s subway system, including at least 500 additional cops deployed since February and another 250 officers added last week during rush hours, Transit Bureau Chief Kathleen O’Reilly said Wednesday during an MTA board meeting.

Still, more policing is needed to make customers and employees feel confident on subways and help boost ridership, Pat Foye, the MTA’s chief executive officer, told reporters after the meeting.

“We’ve got an obligation to provide a safe and secure environment,” Foye said. “More police, more uniformed resources together with mental health resources will be a huge step down the road towards that goal.”

The MTA needs ridership, and the revenue it generates, to help address projected future deficits in 2024, when the agency is expected to exhaust $14.5 billion of federal funds allocated to cover lost revenue during the coronavirus pandemic. Fares and tolls have historically accounted for 50% of the MTA’s revenue.

Officer Deployment

Wednesday’s meeting alleviated a communication breakdown between the MTA and NYPD, as transit officials said they previously didn’t know exactly how many officers were patrolling the system.

“We are providing a wealth of deployment into transit and I think it’s going to prove dividends in the near future,” O’Reilly said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, at a virus press briefing in Manhattan on Wednesday, said reducing crime is key to getting people to return to the city and its subways.

“We have a major crime problem in New York City,” Cuomo said. “New Yorkers don’t feel safe.”

Assaults against MTA employees and customers are hurting the agency’s push to boost ridership. More than a third of people who no longer take the subway say it’s because of crime, according to an MTA customer survey.

There were 156 reported assaults on MTA’s subways in the first four months of 2021, the most since 1998, according to board documents. There have been four murders during that time, the most since at least 1997. While overall crime is down from five, 10 and 15 years ago, the recent spike needs to end, Foye said.

A customer on Sunday was hit with a hammer to his head while riding the subway in Brooklyn, and an Asian man on Monday was saved by fellow passengers after being pushed by an attacker onto the subway tracks in Queens, in what people said was a suspected hate crime.

‘Disturbing Incidents’

“There have been too many disturbing incidents recently, including several disgusting attacks on employees that we simply cannot tolerate,” Foye said during the meeting.

While the subway system carried a pandemic record of 2.3 million riders on Friday, that’s still far below the pre-pandemic weekday average of 5.5 million.

“I know we can come out of this crisis stronger and better than ever if customers, including returning tourists and our employees, feel safe in the city, including on mass transit,” Foye said during the meeting.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.