MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said the agency must continue to raise awareness of subway sex offenses among riders, MTA workers and the offenders themselves as a way to prevent the crimes.
“We need to make sure frequency of occurrences decreases,” Prendergast said at an MTA board meeting Wednesday. “We want to make sure that we’ve raised the level of consciousness and awareness somewhat of the customer … but also of our own employees and the people responsible for the actions. It needs to get to that level.”
The comments come a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter to the state agency ordering it to crack down harder on sex crimes like forcible touching, public lewdness and unlawful surveillance in subway cars and platforms.
According to NYPD data, reports of those crimes so far in 2016 jumped 56.7% from the same period last year, with 431 cases thus far in June, according to NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox.
At an MTA committee meeting Monday, Fox attributed the jump in reports not to an increase crimes, but instead to the NYPD’s targeted enforcement that began in 2015.
“I want to be clear, there is no indication that there are more sex offenses occurring in the subways. Rather our efforts are having the desired effect,” Fox said after the meeting.
But Prendergast on Wednesday said “perception is reality.”
Board members have long advocated for raising awareness of sex crimes to compliment the Police Department’s enforcement.
Former Board Member Allen Cappelli, who Cuomo replaced, suggested spotlighting subway sex criminals’ paths through the District Attorneys offices with updates at every board meeting.
“It wouldn’t require a lot of money, but it would take a lot of time and effort,” Cappelli said.