NYPD plans to add more cops to subways to address crime

Inside of subway car.
Inside of subway car. Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison

A small spike in subway crime has forced the NYPD to step up patrols throughout the system, with the goal of changing the perception that the trains aren’t safe, officials said on Wednesday.

The new patrols involve community affairs officers posted at exits, Strategic Response Group officers who will be specially trained to work in transit, and cops poking their heads into cars.

“This is the way we ease fear; we make sure there are more uniforms in the subway system,” said Chief of Department James O’Neill, later adding: “Not only do you have to keep people safe, you have to make sure that they feel safe.”

There were 6.7 crimes per day in the trains in January, a jump from the same month last year when there were 4.8 crimes per day, which was the lowest recorded monthly total, according to Transit Chief Joseph Fox. In February 2016, that number went down to 6.2.

About half of those crimes are property crimes involving sleeping victims, people leaving bags next to them, or pickpockets.

The jump — and the perception that comes along with it — is forcing the department to beef up patrols in every facet of the system. The response also comes following a spate of slashings in the subway this year.

“Every hour in our system there are more cops out there than there were a couple of months ago,” Fox said.

Fox said the idea is to rotate cops throughout the stations, especially targeting those where crime is prevalent.

In one initiative, a sergeant and four to eight officers will be spread out along the platform, sticking their heads into cars for inspections, Fox said. The conductor will then announce there is police activity and there will be a momentary delay.

“Then they see as the train stops, an officer goes into a separate car, looks at everybody, makes sure everything is OK, is seen, sees what’s in there, and then comes back out,” he said. “We’ve substantially increased those: we’re doing a number of those every day, every tour.”

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the “interruption is minimal.”

“What they’re looking for is ill passengers, those that might be causing problems,” he said. “It’s a tried-and-true method.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said just seeing the uniformed officers is “very reassuring.”

“I don’t think anyone is concerned about any minor delays,” de Blasio said. “Number one: people want to be safe, and they like seeing the presence of the NYPD in the subways.”

In another effort, 25 community affairs and crime prevention officers will team up — 15 from precincts and 10 from transit, Fox said. And throughout the city there will be two to three such operations each weekday, where the officers will hand out precinct information and safety tips.

“When people come out of that busy system, they’re very likely to see these officers in their powder blue shirts and uniforms engaging people,” Fox said.

Uniformed auxiliary cops will supplement that, using the same formula, he said.

Additionally, 60 officers will be assigned to the Times Square station, Bratton said. This is up from the handful of officers who have been stationed there in the past, enhancing visibility, Fox said.

“We’re going to put more uniforms in there,” O’Neill said. “But along with that, there will be people you won’t see: plainclothes cops riding the subways and performing platform inspections. Plus we have camera systems in place.”

All of this is helped along, officials said, by the new efforts to have all officers on the same radio frequency as those above ground.

The initiative started with a January pilot program in the Bronx, O’Neill said, which covered about 300 transit cops. On Monday, the department started a second pilot program in Manhattan, which includes just over 300 officers. Brooklyn is expected to follow in April and Queens in May.

Officers already have the radios, but they have to be reprogrammed.

  • There were 6.7 crimes per day in the trains in January, a jump from the same month last year, when there were 4.8 crimes per day, which was the lowest recorded monthly total.
  • Police are stepping up patrols: including having community affairs officers posted at exits, specially-trained Strategic Response Group officers, and cops poking their heads into cars.
  • 60 officers will be assigned to the Times Square station.
  • Transit officers will now have radios that work in the subway as well as above ground.