EXCLUSIVE | Transit cops speak after arresting subway straphangers with deadly weapons and stolen property

Several transit cops told amNewYork Metro how they arrested three different individuals across two boroughs on Tuesday for major crimes that they said initially stemmed from small infractions.
Photo by Dean Moses

While some question whether the NYPD should concentrate on halting fare evasion and minor quality-of-life offenses in the subways, several transit officers with whom amNewYork Metro spoke on Wednesday underscored success in cuffing serious criminals after stopping them for otherwise minor infractions. 

As the public’s zeroes in on subway crime following recent shootings and a spike in theft, NYPD brass have repeatedly charged that in order to reinsure safety underground, officers need to catch those who jump turnstiles or slip through open emergency gates, or smoke on subway platforms — as often, these individuals who break one minor law are apt to committing more serious crime.

This was evident during NYPD Transit Bureau patrols underground on March 19, when officers in the Bronx and Manhattan stopped three individuals for minor offenses who turned to carry serious weapons and/or have outstanding felony arrest warrant.

One such incident occurred in the Bronx at around 7:10 p.m. on March 19, when plain-clothed officers assigned to NYPD Transit District 11 spotted a 31-year-old man smoking what they believed to be K2 synthetic marijuana inside the Fordham Road subway station at around 7:10 p.m. on March 19. However, when officers confronted the man they discovered he was wanted for a domestic assault and was carrying a firearm.

“When we were searching him for inventory purposes, we found a firearm in his book bag,” arresting Officer Richard Acevedo, told amNewYork Metro.

Captain Melissa Baylor, commanding officer of NYPD Transit District 11, said that her officers have already taken several guns out of the subway system city this year already, believing that this has saved lives.

The recovered gun.Photo courtesy of the NYPD
Captain Melissa Baylor (left) Officer Richard Acevedo (right)Photo by Dean Moses

“The perception is that the subways are unsafe, and we’re trying to change that perception to make sure that the riders feel a sense of safety,” Captain Baylor said.

Earlier that afternoon, in Lower Manhattan, plain-clothed cops for Transit District 2 at the West 4th Street station in Greenwich Village said they eyed a man allegedly dealing drugs by the staircase of the train stop at 4:41 p.m. on March 19.

“We saw an individual who was constantly engaging individuals and providing narcotics in the form of a capsule. We observed multiple exchanges of narcotics for currency,” Officer Anton Gojcevic recalled. “At that point we recovered over 36 packages of alleged crack cocaine in the form of capsules. We recovered a dagger from his person, which he stated he uses for his protection.”

Fellow transit cop Reynaldo Roman stated that while he is pleased he was able to recover a potentially life-ending weapon, he also says it is important to ensure drugs are not being distributed in the subways.

Officers Anton Gojcevic and Reynaldo Roman. Photo by Dean Moses
The revierde drugs and knife.Photo courtesy of the NYPD

“We have people that come from out of the city, you have tourists here from all over the world. They’re stepping over used needles, they’re stepping over bags of drugs, they’re walking with their kids, like, that’s not the image we want of our city,” Roman said. “It is our job to combat that.”

Finally, police in Midtown said they were also able to stop a fare evader on Tuesday who was wanted for a robbery earlier in the month and, incredibly, was found wearing the luxury watch he had stolen.

According to Police Officer Lennoxann Samerson, she was patrolling the 42nd Street and 8th Avenue entrance to the Times Square station at around 4:30 p.m. on March 19, when she spied a 21-year-old man illegally entering via the emergency gate.

“He didn’t want to provide identification so based on his behavior — he was acting disorderly — we brought him into the station house where he was subsequently arrested. We found that he had an open warrant,” Samerson said.

The recovered watch.Photo Courtesy of NYPD

The man was wanted for robbing a watch worth $3000 on March 13 after he arranged to buy the wrist wear only to use pepper spray to steal the item. When Samerson took the man into custody he was still wearing the watch and even had a stolen MacBook on him and pepper spray.

Officer Samerson said the items will be returned to their owners.

“It’s a very good feeling. Two people are going to get their property back,” Samerson said.

These cases probably won’t make an impact in the ongoing debate over the NYPD’s efforts underground. Criminal justice advocates have expressed concern that the concentration on minor crimes would lead to unequal policing and discrimination. 

Samerson, however, stressed that the NYPD is tactful in its efforts to stop fare evaders.

“You know, we’ll stop a lot of people and great majority of them are let go without a fine or any arrest. We just have a conversation with them, and we let them go we,” Samerson said. “We try to sift through the ones who have you certain behaviors or different factors that indicate to us that they’re there for other reasons than just to travel. … We don’t penalize the poor when we enforce theft of service. We exercise a lot of discretion. We speak to people, very often we allows them to go.”