Police to step up New York subway patrol, Adams says

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

Mr Adams, a former transit police officer, said he and police chiefs would ask city patrollers to conduct regular “visual inspections” of metro stations. Transit officials, he said, would be asked to board and walk metro trains more often to check passengers.

“Ubiquitous is the key,” Mr. Adams said. “People feel like the system is insecure because they can’t see the agents. We will bring a visual presence to our systems.

Ms Hochul said the state would also train teams of eight to ten social workers and health professionals who could provide services to thousands of people living on the streets and in the subway.

The changes proposed by Mr. Adams are in line with campaign promises he made: redeploying some agents across the transit system and partnering with trained health professionals who can better meet people’s needs. homeless and mentally ill.

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

While public transport officials have attempted to re-attract riders who fled the system at the start of the pandemic and have not yet fully re-entered, they have struggled for over a year with a perception persistent that the metro system is not safe.

For months, officials have pointed out that serious crimes in the system are at their lowest in decades. Until November, major crimes – murder, rape, theft, assault, burglary and robbery – were at their lowest combined total in 25 years.

But there are far fewer passengers now – the number of riders in 2021 was down more than 50% from pre-pandemic levels – and the crime rate per million weekday passengers has risen sharply almost everywhere compared to 2019. , according to a New York Times analysis of crime and ridership.

The rate of criminal assaults in 2021 increased by around 200% through November compared to the same period in 2019. The rate increased by around 125% for robberies, by around 15% for large theft – thefts committed without the use or threat of force – and about 65 percent for major crimes overall.

The total number of criminal assaults was indeed higher in 2021 than in 2019 despite the drop in traffic. There were 423 criminal assaults in the first 11 months of 2021, 50 more than in 2019.

Many of these incidents were high-profile attacks, like cuts to trains or people being pushed onto tracks, which generated a flurry of headlines about violence in the metro.

By the end of November, six murders had been reported in the metro, the total for all of 2020 and double the three murders reported in 2019.

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

In an effort to comfort passengers, Janno Lieber, Interim President and General Manager of Metropolitan Transportation The authority, which operates the metro, called on the police to better deploy officers to places on trains and on platforms where people may feel vulnerable.

According to a customer survey conducted by the transport authority in the fall, 90 percent of metro users who had not yet returned to trains said their worry about crime and harassment was a major factor. to determine when and if they would return.

Of those who took the metro in some form or another, 64%, or nearly two-thirds, said they felt safer seeing uniformed police on platforms or trains.

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

“I don’t feel in danger and I don’t necessarily know if people want more of a 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 operatives to the system after a string of high-profile crimes. In February, after two fatal stab wounds and several other attacks, he added 500 officers to the approximately 2,500 already patrolling the system.

In May, as the metro was due to restore 24-hour service, which had been suspended during the pandemic, a number of outages led city officials to deploy another 250 agents into the system.

But subway policing has not been without controversy in New York City, particularly amid years of conversations about racial bias in law enforcement. A plan by Mr. Cuomo to deploy hundreds of additional officers in 2019 to fight tariff evasion sparked debate over aggressive policing, with criminal justice reform activists arguing that Mr. Cuomo was unfairly targeting poor New Yorkers.

In January 2020, State Attorney General Letitia James said she was investigating whether police discriminated against people of color by applying fare fraud on subways and buses. The investigation is still ongoing, a spokesperson said on Thursday.

Mr. Adams’ plan does not involve the hiring of additional agents. He and city police commissioner Keechant Sewell said they would redeploy some officers currently on duty to patrol the subway.

The two also said officers would focus on serious crime and report the problems of homeless people sleeping on the subway and at train stations to awareness experts.

Officers, Adams promised, would not have “unnecessary engagement” with the homeless, nor would they be involved in “minor issues that would cause negative encounters” with the bikers.

But several homeless advocates have expressed skepticism about the possibility of such a separation, especially because the increased police presence would likely come ahead of the deployment of Ms Hochul’s outreach teams.

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

Homelessness on the streets and on the subway has persisted in New York even though the city, unlike other parts of the country, is required to provide shelter for every person.

Those on the streets or in the subway tend to be the least open to city services, in many cases because they are wary of the city’s often overcrowded and sometimes violent shelters. The 24-hour metro 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 housing with services for people at risk of homelessness, it will take time and the immediate need is great.

“It’s a good deal of smoke and mirrors,” Mr. Hughes said. “Provide outreach services instead of housing, but present it as something more, then flood the trains with cops. “

The report was provided by Troy Closson, Ashley Southall and Jonas E. Bromwich.

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