MOTT HAVEN, the Bronx (PIX11) — The police presence at subway stations across New York City is growing further in the wake of a rise in crime underground since summer ended, according to the NYPD’s transit chief.
While the increase in felony transit crimes is significant — more than a 40 percent increase over last year — an analyst who’s written extensively on crime statistics says that the situation, while concerning, is not nearly as severe as it may seem.
On Monday, there were constant, visible patrols of officers from the NYPD, MTA Police, and CUNY Public Safety at the East 149th Street-Grand Concourse 2, 4, and 5 train stop, next to Hostos Community College. It had been the scene, on Sunday evening, of yet another random attack on the subway.
In the incident on a platform, a man punched a 62-year-old passenger from behind, knocking the victim onto the tracks, according to police. The victim managed to get back onto the platform with help from other passengers before the train arrived. Police also arrested the 21-year-old suspect at the scene.
That attack came hours after a 14-year-old girl was stabbed at a station in Washington Heights. She is expected to survive.
Still, the recent attacks, on top of months’ worth of crimes, including nine homicides on the subway, affect some riders, including Karess Gonzalez.
“Actually, I’m not going to be riding as much,” she said, outside of the E. 149th St. station. “If I can walk it, I’m gonna walk it.”
She was among subway passengers feeling less safe riding the train than they once had. Gonzalez said that the rising rate of felony crime on mass transit — an increase of 42 percent from a year ago — was the main reason for her fear.
Another thing, however, has increased in the last year: ridership. At the MTA Audit Committee’s meeting on Monday, New York City Transit President Richard Davey reported that September saw its first month since the pandemic began with more than 90 million subway trips in total.
That meant an average ridership in September to more than 3.4 million people a day, Davey said. He added that on Saturday, Sept. 21, the system had its highest Saturday ridership since the pandemic began, at more than 3.87 million.
Those kinds of numbers, said Christopher Herrmann, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, need to be considered seriously, and objectively.
“If you put that in context,” he pointed out, “one out of every 500,000 people is experiencing some kind of serious victimization each day.”
The former crime analyst supervisor at the NYPD said that those are actually very, very low odds for becoming a victim of violent crime on the trains.
“You have more of a chance of winning the Pick 4 than you have of getting victimized on the subway every day,” he said, referring to the popular lottery game, which has odds of 1 in 2,500.
Many riders who spoke with PIX11 News said that that assessment matched how they feel.
Shandell Harvey commutes on the train daily.
“I feel safe riding the train,” she said. “I still have to get around. I don’t mind taking the train.”
Charlton D’Souza, leader of the riders’ advocacy organization Passengers United said that while continuing to ride the rails is important, “We don’t want people to get too overconfident. This is what’s happening.”
He said that Passengers United has just launched what it calls a state of emergency campaign, titled Subway Safety Second. He said that it’s meant to highlight how many crimes are happening when passengers least expect it.
Herrmann, the crime statistics expert, agrees.
“The issue for subway riders, including myself, who takes the subway,” he said, “it’s the randomness problem of the victimization that’s stoked a lot of this fear.”