Subway police surge: ‘Omnipresence’ of cops needed to boost sense of safety in system, Hochul and Adams explain

Subway police surge announced
Mayor Adams, Gov. Hochul, and MTA Chair Janno Lieber announce a surge of cops in the subway system at Grand Central on Oct. 22, 2022.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA

Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams on Saturday announced a new surge of police presence in the subway system, aiming to allay rider concerns about safety amid a series of high-profile incidents on trains and platforms.

Hochul made the announcement on Saturday, just weeks before the Democratic incumbent is set to face Republican challenger Lee Zeldin, in a tightening race where crime has arguably become the defining issue.

The governor, speaking with the mayor, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, and MTA Chair Janno Lieber at Grand Central Terminal, said the state would fund an additional 1,200 overtime shifts per day for NYPD and MTA Police officers in the system, placing cops on patrol at over 300 stations at a time during peak hours.

“We want to have a more significant presence, visible presence,” Hochul said Saturday. “People want to see that there’s an officer there when they need help.”

Officials are hoping that am “omnipresence” of cops will serve as a deterrent against crime in the system. Additional deployments of MTA Police at major commuter hubs — Grand Central, Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, and Sutphin-Archer — will free up NYPD officers to deploy to other points across the system. More MTA cops will also start riding trains, and a “substantial increase” of officers will deploy to turnstiles to deter fare evasion.

More cops will be deployed throughout the system as officials hope to deter crime with “omnipresence.”File Photo by Dean Moses

The governor also announced a new program, Transition to Home, bringing online two new 25-bed inpatient facilities for homeless people living on the subway or streets and suffering from severe mental illness; the first will launch on Nov. 1 at Manhattan Psychiatric Center. The program intends to provide homeless people with a safe place to stay as doctors seek to medically stabilize patients, and social workers and other staff provide patients with life management skills needed to live independently.

The state’s Office of Mental Health will also expand training for NYPD, MTA Police, and EMTs on best practices for engaging the homeless population, and on their statutory authority to transport them to receive care. The city has controversially sought to remove homeless people from the subway system and move them into shelter since February.

Mayor Adams, who has made public safety the linchpin of his tenure in office, said that the plan would help alleviate riders’ concerns about the “perception” of disorder and chaos in the system.

“We must address the perception and reality of public safety. And that perception is what people are feeling,” Hizzoner said at Grand Central on Saturday. “People say over and over again, even if they’re not immediately the victim of a crime, they’re saying, ‘we feel unsafe.’ And we must address both those aspects of public safety.”

Murders in the subway system stood at 6 for the first nine months of 2022, equal to the number seen in the same period of 2021, according to the NYPD’s Transit Bureau. But other crimes are up significantly: rape is up 125%, grand larceny is up 66.7%, and robbery is up 32%.

The past three years have seen 16 murders in the subway system between January and September, equal to the previous 13 years, per NYPD Transit data. And many of the murders that have taken place in the system this year have been unpredictable and headline-grabbing.

Three people have been killed in the system in October alone, including one man struck by a train in Jackson Heights following a platform fight.File Photo by Dean Moses

October has been an exceptionally violent month on the rails, bringing the total number of deaths in the system this year to nine so far.

On Oct. 7, Charles Moore was fatally stabbed in an unprovoked attack on the 176th Street 4 train platform in the Bronx. 15-year-old Jayjon Burnett was fatally shot by another teenager aboard an A train in Far Rockaway on Oct. 14. And on Oct. 17, Heriberto Quintana died after being struck by an F train in Jackson Heights, after falling onto the tracks during a physical confrontation.

Mayor Adams said on Saturday that 40% of those nine homicides were committed by people with a history of mental illness. The NYPD has removed 1,500 “emotionally disturbed persons” from the system this year, he said, “to prevent some form of incident from taking place.”

Thousands of cops already patrol the subways. Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, the largest NYPD patrol union, said that the subway surge was an “unsustainable” increase in cops’ workload.

“The increased workload is crushing the cops who remain,” Lynch said in a statement. “The answer is not to squeeze them for more forced OT.”

Meanwhile, Zeldin, a Republican congressman from Long Island, suggested to the New York Post that Hochul only made the announcement because the GOP nominee for governor is surging in the polls. A Quinnipiac University poll this month showed Zeldin trailing the governor by just 4 percentage points, and capturing an astonishing 37% support in deep blue New York City; the same poll found a plurality of voters say crime — Zeldin’s central campaign issue — is the most urgent dilemma facing the state today.