NYPD transit officers have issued “very few” summonses to maskless subway riders who refuse to cover their faces, but police officials declined to say Monday exactly how many fines they’ve handed out to those flaunting the mandatory federal rules.
Transit Bureau Chief Kathleen O’Reilly told MTA board members during a Dec. 13 meeting that she has told cops to focus on offering maskless straphangers a face covering instead of slapping them with the $50 penalty, and that almost all riders abide.
“I can assure you that we’ve issued very few of those,” O’Reilly told the board’s New York City Transit Committee on Dec. 13. “[The] majority of what I’ve told my cops to do is to make sure you carry masks with you, make sure you wear your mask, and if you encounter somebody on a train, offer them a mask.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the people that we encounter that are not wearing a mask will take a mask and they’ll put that mask on when the officer requires them to do so,” the top transit cop added.
NYPD has issued almost 70,000 summons from January through November of this year, according to the latest MTA committee books.
Fare evasion made up about 22,000 of that, 1,000 were for “unsafe riding,” and another 8,100 for other offenses like smoking, littering and urinating, O’Reilly said, but she couldn’t give a specific number for no masks.
“I can get you a breakdown at a later date,” she said.
A police spokesman didn’t have a number either in response to a follow-up request for data, instead providing a statement that reiterating the NYPD’s focus on “voluntary compliance.”
“Garnering voluntary compliance is the best approach for everyone, and we find that almost every time we encounter someone who isn’t wearing a mask, when we ask them to put one on, they comply,” said Sergeant Edward Riley in a statement. “We’re focused on the end result, compliance with the mask mandate – and this has been a very effective approach.”
As per a federal mandate, everyone on public transit must wear a mask in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on subways, buses, commuter rail, para-transit, or at indoor stations, which the Transportation Security Administration extended through March 18, 2022.
Law enforcement have not had a good record of wearing masks themselves in transit with riders repeatedly catching Boys in Blue flouting the rules and posting photos on social media.
In October, a pair of unmasked cops even shoved one rider out of a Greenwich Village station gate for confronting them over their noncompliance.
MTA has issued 76 summons for no masks since September 2020, including 34 from the time transit officials launched an enforcement blitz on Sept. 23 of this year, the majority of which happened in the first week after that announcement, according to figures provided by the agency.
Meanwhile, MTA figures show mask compliance has decreased from a high at the beginning of the year.
The rate of people without masks has increased from a steady low of 2% from February through May to between 10-14% since late June, according to mask counts by the transit agency.
The latest figure from Nov. 15-26 found 77% of people wearing the coverings correctly, 13% incorrectly, and 11% without any mask.
Buses have shown better figures peaking at just 1% with no mask until late April, before increasing again to 6% as of Nov. 12.
“Mask compliance is pretty good, but it really needs to be better,” said MTA board member Randy Glucksman during Monday’s meeting.