New York City officials gathered at the Barclays Center Train Station on Thursday to discuss the issue of crime in the city’s subway system.
Mayor Eric Adams, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, and MTA Chair Janno Lieber descended the stairs of the station to announce some good news to New Yorkers: transit crime has dropped by over 9% last month compared to last year, marking the second consecutive month that crime has declined in the subway system.
Overall subway index crime is down by 19.4% so far this year.
To combat subway crime, the NYPD has added more than 1,200 officers to patrol the subway as part of a program called Cops, Cameras, and Care.
An NYPD Officer is seen at the platform at 116th Street and Lexington Avenue Subway station in New York City. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
“It’s about having the visible uniform presence here at the turnstile, having people come in and letting them see the officers, engage with them as well,” NYPD Commissioner Sewell explained.
However, this has led to a significant uptick in overtime costs for NYPD officers. Governor Kathy Hochul has pledged state money to help fund this overtime, but there are concerns about the program’s sustainability in the long run.
“We recognize that it’s not a well that’ll be there forever,” Sewell said. “So we have to be smart. We have to strategically deploy our resources, putting the officers where they need to be, where we’re seeing the spikes, where we’re seeing the issues. It’s about precision policing.”
Mayor Adams stated that they will not be cutting corners on public safety and will continue to do whatever is needed to maintain it. However, the NYPD is struggling to retain officers. Last year, a record number of cops either retired or left the force, but the commissioner and mayor believe they can turn the tide.
“We were bottlenecking the exam, the police commissioner went in changed the whole exam,” Adams said. “So you’re going to go to see a new energy.”
Mayor Adams also discussed his plans to boost ridership, which involve keeping the trains clean and ensuring that those struggling with mental illness receive proper care.
“Four-thousand people we have taken into care,” Adams said referring to the number of people they have transferred to a hospital for evaluation. “Over 1,000 have remained in care. Some have gone on to wraparound services. But we moved away from denying the presence of people who needed help, and we’ve been engaging with them.”
The mayor also acknowledged criticism of his plan to involuntarily remove those on the subway who seem unable to care for themselves and taking them to a hospital for evaluation. Some of this criticism stems from the fact that there are not enough psychiatric beds in hospitals and that many of these long-term programs have waitlists that stretch years.
Currently, there is no tracking system in place to see where these individuals are transferred and how many continue their care. However, the mayor plans to put a system like this into action.
MTA Chair Lieber hopes to boost ridership by placing cell service in the tunnels.
“One of the things that we hope will encourage people to keep moving around and coming back to the office is that they can get work done and they can maintain connectivity throughout their travel,” Lieber said.
The union that represents officers is currently operating under a contract that expired in 2017, and they are hoping that this next contract will include a pay boost for officers. There is also a debate over residency and whether officers should be required to live in the neighborhoods they patrol. Commissioner Sewell and Mayor Adams are split on the issue.
“The commissioner and I, she sees it one way I see it another way, which is fine,” Adams said. “I just think it’s important. You feel a greater level of investment, but that’s not the law and the law does not require that.”
State lawmakers are currently negotiating additional funding for the MTA in the state budget, which is due at the end of the month. Safety remains a top priority, and officials hope that these measures will encourage New Yorkers to return to the subway system.