New York City seems to be repeating some of the worst parts of its history. The recent epidemic of subway crime follows a shocking record year of city-wide increases. In 2020 homicides were up 45%, shootings 97%, and shooting victims over 100%. Such rapid and unprecedented increases spread fear not only to New Yorkers but to visitors, businesses, and tourists.
This fear has been exacerbated with the breakout of a subway crime epidemic. Women thrown on tracks, random beatings, robbery, attempted rape, and general frightening harassment are now everyday occurrences. Interestingly, subway crime has always been the source of more hysteria than similar crimes committed on the street. It is understandable. You are confined below ground and once in the subway car, you have fewer options to escape.
During a crime epidemic like this, there is always one specific crime that symbolizes and drives fear. This time it was a horrendous and frightening experience for Rosa Elizabeth Galeas-Forencio. A 52-year-old woman on her way to work when she was thrown on the subway tracks for no reason and with no warning. This type of incident is a fear that haunts, at one time or another, every subway rider. Fortunately, a brave New Yorker immediately came to the rescue and prevented her from being crushed by the oncoming train.
This crime cannot be dismissed as an exception. Statistics are demonstrating an increase in subway crime even with the dramatic drop in ridership. The rise of violence on the subway has been like violence in the city as a whole, at historic levels, and completely disregarded as far as a change of strategy goes. For example, in 2020, with the startling increase in per capita violent crime, transit arrests were inexplicably down 62%. As of February 7, this year, transit felonies are up 13%, 70% compared to three years ago. Meanwhile, ridership is down by 70%. The increases are even more serious when considered per capita.
The frustration is these crimes could be drastically reduced if the current administration would overcome its stubborn unwillingness to use strategies developed between 1994 to 2013, which turned New York City into the safest large city in America. Instead, it utilizes a so-called progressive (regressive) agenda for crime which can only be described as lacking common sense, practicality, or understanding of the street.
No bail criminal-friendly policies, (almost) immediate release of those arrested, large one-time prisoner releases, major decreases in arrests, abandonment of effective police units, and the destruction of police morale, are the reasons for this crime epidemic. It is not because of the “perfect storm” that originated from the pandemic, as Mayor de Blasio has stated over fifty times now. That statement not only makes him sound uninformed and incompetent but also as though he is abdicating from the accountability that comes with being a Mayor.
The epidemic can be stopped, and crime reduced, with swift and proven major policy changes.
First, the Mayor should stop disregarding Transit Chief Sarah Feinberg’s repeated requests for more police. As de Blasio endlessly ponders; more of his citizens get killed, beaten, robbed, and harassed. The 500 additional police officers Feinberg is requesting should be immediately deployed and then followed with an additional 500.
Second, de Blasio should recognize his mistake in abandoning “broken windows.” He should order the arrest, booking, and fingerprinting of every fare evader. Many of these evaders turn out to have perpetrated other crimes and are often wanted. The criminals who come on the subway to commit harassment, rob, rape, or murder, generally do not pay their fare. A policy of arresting all fare evaders would reduce these incidents.
Third, the entire CompStat system for transit crime should be given its one hundred-thousand-mile inspection. This is to make certain that incorrect assumptions have not infected it over the years. This is not the fault of the administration, rather a necessary aspect of a constantly changing pattern of crime.
Fourth, the additional and current officers should be deployed and re-deployed based on the information uncovered through intense analysis of the data acquired from CompStat. The information will change frequently and requires maximum flexibility of the police deployment.
Fifth, those arrested for property or violent crime on the subway should be held on bail, not immediately released and then given sweetheart plea deals. They should be given maximum penalties until we turn the corner on this epidemic.
Sixth, the deployment of cameras should be increased and be easily moveable in accordance with the evidence emerging from CompStat.
Seventh, in light of the emergency, and to stem the tide, the prosecutors and courts should give transit cases expedited treatment. There is no more effective justice than sure and swift.
Eight, the NYPD should report the statistics and changes regularly every Friday. If it works to reduce crime, and it always has in the past, this will begin to restore confidence in the transit system and the City.