Many subway riders want better service, not extra cops

We spoke with straphangers on Tuesday to see what they think about the plan to increase subway cops.

We have enough cops, now fix the subways already!

That’s the message a number of subway riders seem to have for Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA with regard to their plan to add 500 additional officers in the transit system.

“Those of us who are old enough, fortunately or unfortunately, remember when this city was unsafe. And it starts in the subways,” said Cuomo to NY1 reporter Kristen Shaughnessy about the plan Tuesday morning. “That’s the canary in the coal mine. “

In June, Cuomo announced the proposed increase in police presence to combat fare evasion and an increase in subway crime. The MTA will spend $50 million annually for the program, which also calls for improving exits and increasing the number of cameras in stations.

But in late October, Police Commissioner James O’Neill argued that Governor Cuomo’s claims of an increase in subway crime were inaccurate. According to data from the New York Police Department, the number of major crimes in the subway are down. 

Some transit advocacy groups, such as the Riders Alliance, have staunchly opposed the measure, charging that the plan unfairly targets low-income New Yorkers, and that the resources would be better spent on infrastructure improvements.

During his appearance on NY1 Monday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio guesstimated that, if he asked 100 people on a train about whether they wanted more cops in the subways, 75 of them would agree.

But in speaking with subway riders in Brooklyn and Manhattan on Tuesday, amNewYork found that most of them aren’t with the mayor when it comes to extra officers in the subway system.

“The system is really just old and it’s really kind of embarrassing,” said Janely Familia, 32, who believes that funds allocated for new officers would be better spent for upgrading the subway’s signal system, cars and rundown platforms. “New York is known for such great things and the subway system still looks the same after 50 years.”

The majority of passengers who agreed to speak with amNewYork were against increased security. A few in favor of the governor’s plan stated that increased officers would only continue to improve safety in the city’s subways.

“There are always a lot of elevators that are out and especially out in Queens I see a lot of older folks struggling,” Yvonne Huaringa, 42, a life-long New Yorker who currently lives in Jamaica, Queens. A life-long New Yorker, she doesn’t believe that crime in the city’s subways is an issue like it once was.

According to Huaringa, instead of spending money on increased security in subway stations, resources should be placed in to fixing dilapidated subway stations.

“I was in a subway station and it was raining so much the want went through to station,” Huaringa recalled about a trip through a central Queens subway station. “I literally went wading through water.”

Anderson Alcaraz, 26, doesn’t agree that the more security should be placed in the city’s subways. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“It would be an unnecessary expense,” said Anderson Alcaraz, 26, in Spanish. Alcaraz, who moved to the city last year from Paraguay, has not noticed enough crime during his daily travels on the subway to warrant 500 new officers.

Like Huaringa and Familia, he also believes that the funding would better spent on the making the subway faster, more reliable and cleaner.

For people like 54-year-Financial District resident Olafur Thordarson, funds should used not only be but back into the subway system but also towards decreasing the cost of the subway ride, perhaps even making it free.

One commuter in favor of the extra cops said they would bring a greater sense of security to the system.

“If they are allowed to be in the subway, there is a guarantee and an assurance that that people will be safer,” said Jonathan Kawkutse-elbeo, a 55-year-old security guard.

Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech