NYC Has Most Transit Cops in 2 Decades as 24-Hour Subways Return
(Bloomberg) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will add 250 additional transit cops to respond to heightened subway crimes as it resumes 24-hour service Monday and called for more resources from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The additional police officers join 3,000 other transit officers and marks the largest deployment in more than two decades, de Blasio said in a briefing on Monday. The officers will be used heavily during peak times as more riders return to work in the city.
“Recovery supports public safety, they go together,” he said. “Anybody who commits a crime on the subway, there will be consequences.”
Getting crime under control on the subways will help riders feel confident in the system again as the MTA needs customers to come back to its subways, buses and commuter lines. Weekday subway ridership is down about 63% from pre-pandemic levels and only about 16% of office workers are back in the New York City metro area. While the MTA will receive a combined $14.5 billion of federal aid to cover lost revenue, it needs additional riders as the agency faces deficits as soon as 2024.
To help entice people back to the system, the MTA on Sunday launched a marketing campaign to remind New Yorkers the benefits of mass transit. Advertisements on subway entrances, buses, billboards, elevated overpasses and social media will highlight the system’s relative affordability and how it enables commuters to avoid vehicle traffic.
But a number of high-profile incidents on the subways has raised concerns among would-be riders, including five incidents last Friday where customers were slashed and robbed. The MTA had 119 reported assaults from January through March, up from 91 during the same period in 2019, according to the agency’s board documents.
Contenders in the city’s mayoral race have also called on de Blasio to send more transit cops, as well as mental health professionals, into subway stations.
The mayor said that the NYPD will be using tactics other than just deployment of more officers, but didn’t state specifics when asked whether there would be plainclothes police or improved emergency communications on subway cars. “It used to be that folks got away after committing crimes on subways,” he said. “It’ll be the highest number in 25 years, I feel confident it will make a big impact.”
De Blasio also called on the MTA to fill vacancies that he said remain open despite the approval of 500 more MTA officers more than a year ago. “The NYPD is stepping up, MTA why don’t you step up as well?” he said.
In a separate press conference on Monday, Cuomo later shot back at de Blasio. He said the MTA has been hiring the officers and that de Blasio wasn’t taking enough ownership of the city’s crime problem.
Cuomo said the state could reopen venues and try to boost the economy, but it was up to the city and the NYPD to get crime under control.
“The crime on the subways now is a major, major problem. How do you deny that?” Cuomo said. “Are the number of police that he sent enough? I don’t think so, because I think we have been under-policed for quite some time.”
MTA leaders have been urging the mayor for months to increase the number of police officers and mental-health workers on the subway system amid a spike of assaults and incidents of harassment.
The 250 additional officers isn’t enough, said Pat Foye, the MTA’s chief executive officer, during a discussion on the transit agency hosted on Monday by the Association for a Better New York, a civic group.
“That’s an important step in terms of realization of the fact that there is an issue and that is positive, but I think we need more beyond that,” Foye said of the 250 officers.
Foye said the subways need 700 to 800 additional police officers and urged the state, city and MTA to keep talking to find a solution.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.