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MTA finally gets answers on number of NYPD cops in subways during May board meeting

NYPD subway
NYPD officers make routine checks in subway cars as they pull into stations.
Photo by Dean Moses

MTA officials and board members had an uncharacteristically chaotic debate Wednesday about the number of cops were assigned to the subways during the 1990s, which has formed a baseline for their current needs.

But in a data breakthrough with NYPD Transit Chief Kathleen O’Reilly, they learned that it appears that around 500 to 650 additional cops are in the subways at any given time, based on the needs of the moment and availability of law enforcement personnel. 

With crime vexing interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg the most, she seemed relieved Wednesday at the news that the February surge of officers into the system had more or less been maintained.

“We have surged over 1,100 officers, that’s above and beyond what our daily number is in transit – it’s 1,100 per day into transit,” O’Reilly said during the May 26 board meeting. “So, let me just be clear about the 644 and the 500. We dedicated a minimum of 500, so there were days when that number was 644. So it’s a minimum of 500, but sometimes it’s more, and I’m happy to have more… That’s 250 for the four hours in the morning rush hour, and then there’s another 250 for the evening rush hour, four hours.”

The total, according to O’Reilly, on average day is 1,450 cops in the subways while Wednesday in particular is saw 2,663. 

The debate surrounding cops and a 25 year old agreement with the city to maintain about 1,000 officers in the entire system lasted for upwards of an hour.

“That is the most information we have gotten on any of those since like February so thanks, that is so helpful to know that, you know, 500 full time – after the stabbings in February – that sometimes surged up to 644, and then an additional 250 officers in the morning rush and an additional 250 officers in the evening rush,” Feinberg said. “This is, this is very helpful and I will say that we have never gotten any of this information from City Hall and it says to me again that the more that we can have direct conversations with [O’Reilly] without a lot of others intervening is very helpful.”

The month of May has been spent by the MTA and Mayor Bill de Blasio feuding over how many cops are placed in stations and trains as assaults on transit workers continue to be the real surge with multiple incidences of attacks on staff and the public making headlines daily.

However, much of the MTA’s concerns have been not only around the safety of their workforce, but also the feeling of the riding public which, as reflected in a recent survey, is less confidents in terms of safety.

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