Mayor Eric Adams’s recent deployment of more police officers into the New York City subway system swelled the ranks of transit cops to new record levels, amNewYork Metro has learned.
NYPD has sent more than 1,000 extra officers underground as part of Adams’s effort announced earlier this month to make cops an “omnipresence” on trains and platforms, according to police spokesman Sergeant Edward Riley.
That’s in addition to the roughly 2,500 officers assigned to the Police Department’s Transit Bureau, leading to some 3,500 police in the public transit system since Adams announced his initiative early this month, more than the 3,250 former Mayor Bill de Blasio sent underground last May.
De Blasio temporarily rolled out an extra 250 officers on top of a previous boost of 500 more cops into the subways after months of pressure by transit officials, and their added presence made for largest law enforcement deployment in the Transit Bureau’s 26-year history, reported the Daily News.
During a joint press conference with Gov. Kathy Hochul on Jan. 6, Mayor Adams announced his plan to send officers from the city’s 77 precincts to assist the Transit Bureau, but did not specify how many more police he wanted to add to the subways.
Hochul unveiled a new state-funded team of homeless outreach workers, starting with about 20 people this week and as many as 200 by the end of the year.
A little over a week later on Jan. 15 a mentally-ill homeless man shoved Michelle Alyssa Go into an oncoming train at Times Square, which shocked New Yorkers and galvanized calls for better safety on platforms, such as protective barriers.
During Monday board meetings of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency’s newly-confirmed chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber addressed the tragic incident and the rise of mentally-ill New Yorkers seeking refuge in the transit system amid the pandemic.
“While the kinds of terrible, life-threatening incidents that happened last weekend in Times Square are infrequent numerically, we can’t ignore that the ridership is feeling vulnerable and especially because of these all-too-frequent interactions with New Yorkers struggling with mental health issues,” he said.
NYPD’s newly-appointed Transit Bureau Chief Jason Wilcox said that he will focus his efforts on getting officers in trains and on platforms to make riders feel safer, following a horrific fatal shoving recently.
“The absolute foundation of what we’re going to be pushing out is uniform train patrols, high visibility,” the senior transit cops told reporters after an MTA board meeting Monday. “We want the riders, the New Yorkers, the people that come here to work here, go to school here, to see our offices and to feel safer. We’re determined to make that happen.”
Police officials and politicians have acknowledged that transit crime only makes up 1.7% of citywide figures, but have said they wanted to end the “perception of fear” in order to lure more straphangers back.
One rider advocate said that increasing police forces won’t solve the many issues plaguing the subways, noting that the current deployment amounts to nearly 10% of the NYPD’s 36,000-strong force for less than 2% of city crimes and that there were two officers on the platform when Go was pushed to her death.
“As we saw tragically in Times Square, the mere presence of police unfortunately cannot stop the worst from taking place,” said Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance. “Over the long haul, what I think we’ll see is that it’s only with genuine commitments and investments in housing and health care that will actually reduce the numbers of people living in the subway.”
The transit booster also urged the MTA to focus on bettering service to bring back commuters, as the agency only on Monday was able to reactivate its last line following more than three weeks of suspensions due to crews calling out sick en masse amid the COVID-19 Omicron surge.
“The MTA has been dealing with crew shortages on top of crew shortages that have meant that trains are less frequent,” Pearlstein said. “The state needs to invest in more affordable, more frequent service to make transit as attractive as possible to as many people as possible, because that will do a lasting difference in making it safer.”
Mayoral spokesperson Charles Lutvak referred a request for comment to statements Adams made Sunday on CNN, when hizzoner said he wants police to be a “visible presence” on the subways and that cops and social workers must be “proactive and not just reactive.”
“We should not wait for someone to carry out a dangerous action when we know they are on the station in the first place,” Adams said on Jan. 23. “Immediately when you see a dangerous person there, mental health professionals will be deployed and that person will receive the proper care and removed from our subway system.”