Seeking to combat violence stemming from those using the subway system as a shelter, the NYPD has begun issuing summonses to those laying on benches in and off train cars and on platform floors. To get a better understanding of the sweep, amNewYork Metro tagged along with the Train Order Maintenance Sweep (TOMS) patrol on Tuesday as they roamed through the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station.
Following the murder of Michelle Alyssa Go on Jan. 15, and a spate of subway stabbings, the NYPD has undertaken a new initiative under the direction of Mayor Eric Adams they say will make the subway a safer place — The Subway Safety Plan.
“It is cruel and inhumane to allow unhoused people to live on the subway, and unfair to paying passengers and transit workers who deserve a clean, orderly, and safe environment,” said Mayor Adams when he announced the plan on Feb. 18. “The days of turning a blind eye to this growing problem are over.”
Deputy Inspector Kenneth Gorman Commanding Officer at Transit District 1 stressed that this procedure is something the NYPD have been executing for years prior to the mayor’s new action, and will now be implemented in addition to the Subway Safety Plan.
In addition, the mayor’s plan is said to include two officers, a clinician and outreach worker to further safety efforts and will target six lines first (1,2,3, A, E, N, and R trains).
“Homelessness, obviously, this is something that we want to address. This is not a criminal act; it is not illegal to be homeless on the subway system. We are here to offer services, that’s our primary function there,” Inspector Gorman said.
In hopes of ensuring rider safety while also checking for MTA violations, a group of about eight officers are positioned along the platform as a train pulls into a station. An officer then speaks with a train conductor and informs them they will be making an inspection.
“If they are in violation of an MTA rule, we have numerous ways to deal with that. So, officers have discretion, we can ask them to correct their behavior and leave it at that, sometimes we may eject them from the system, which means that they’re going to be asked to leave the system based on that violation. And then, you know, we can take other steps as well if we need to,” Inspector Gorman explained.
Officers examine each carriage by swiftly stepping into the car and making their presence known and if everything is in order, the train is left to proceed.
According to police sources, over a 28-day period, subway arrests are up 73% when compared to last year while gun arrests over the 28-day period are up 400%.
For Gorman this is also about making their presence known while also expanding their accessibility to the public.
“It’s multifaceted,” Gorman said.
New Yorkers have long decried the perception of safety when traveling underground, citing those laying across train seats with bags of belongings as making them at best feel uncomfortable and at worst feel unsafe. But what is the perception like now knowing officers are responding to the issue?
amNewYork Metro observed the NYPD dispense multiple summonses to those sleeping on benches. One homeless man declined to comment only stating, “It’s about us laying on benches,” as he clutched his hefty bag and fled to higher ground.
Some riders believe it is the wrong time to be implementing the program.
“I don’t think it is beneficial. It is winter and they are just trying to survive,” Diana S. said, adding that she feels safe while riding the subway.
Others on the other hand feel that action is long overdue on the city’s part.
“I hate the subway. I usually never take it. It’s not safe, it is not somewhere I would want my mother to be. Something needs to be done,” Jason Gonzalez told amNewYork Metro.
According to police sources, officers do not simply slap the unhoused with violations; they also aim to connect those in need with homeless outreach support teams.