Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered a tighter crackdown on subway sex crimes after the Police Department recently reported a spike in cases on platforms and in trains.
“New York State has zero tolerance for these despicable crimes,” Cuomo wrote in a letter to the MTA, dated June 21.
Reports through 2016 relating to forcible touching, public lewdness and unlawful surveillance in the subway are up 56.7% when compared to the same period as last year, with 431 reported cases thus far through June, according to the NYPD.
“Effective immediately,” Cuomo continued, “I am ordering the MTA to take all steps available to strengthen patrols in the subway system, including the use of more plainclothes officers to crack down on this sort of depraved behavior, and to work directly with the NYPD’s Transit Bureau to reassure riders and enforce the rule of law in light of these disturbing statistics.”
The letter goes against the logic of the NYPD, which has lead enforcement of the crimes. NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox, who relayed the stats on Monday at an MTA Transit and Bus Committee Meeting, stressed to board members that the spike in reports was not due to an increase in crimes, but rather a result of the department’s targeted enforcement.
“Most arrests come from officer-initiated enforcement, where our plain officers observe elements of crime and intervene,” Fox said at the meeting. “You can see how increased enforcement has had an impact. The same is true of the number of recorded crimes that come from women who have courageously come forward to report incidents.”
Fox also credited the uptick to the publicity that came along with the NYPD’s increased sex crime enforcement beginning in 2015. Until then, Fox said the number of reported cases remained stagnant at around 600. In 2016, he said the agency is on pace to receive 900 reports.
In his letter, Cuomo acknowledged the increased efforts, but added that more needs to be done.
“Protecting the safety and security of its riders is the MTA’s most sacrosanct obligation,” Cuomo wrote. “We cannot and will not allow these crimes to persist.”
Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said in an email that “one sexual assault is one too many. The MTA takes this issue seriously. We understand the Governor’s directive and are committed to using all available MTA resources and working with the NYPD’s Transit Bureau to end these types of crimes against riders.”