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National Guard to be deployed in New York City subway in crime crackdown: Governor

todayMarch 7, 2024


Jodie Wallis/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — New York National Guard troops and New York State Police troopers will be deployed into the subway system to help riders feel safe after a spike in transit crime, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday.

The new deployment is in addition to the 1,000 New York City police officers who were ordered to patrol subway lines and do security checks on bags in the nation’s largest transit system last month following an attack on a conductor and other high-profile crimes.

Hochul announced the deployment of National Guard troops as part of a five-point plan to protect subway riders.

“Since taking office, I have been laser-focused on driving down subway crime and protecting New Yorkers,” Hochul said. “My five-point plan will rid our subways of violent offenders and protect all commuters and transit workers. I am sending a message to all New Yorkers: I will not stop working to keep you safe and restore your peace of mind whenever you walk through those turnstiles.”

Hochul said she is directing the New York National Guard to make 750 members, who are currently part of the Joint Task Force Empire Shield, available to help check subway riders’ bags for weapons.

“The service members of the New York National Guard are always ready to assist our partners as they ensure the safety and security of our fellow citizens,” Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, adjutant general of the state National Guard, said in a statement.

Hochul said her plan also includes assigning 1,000 state workers, including 250 state police troopers and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police members, to assist the NYPD in enhanced baggage checks at heavily trafficked areas of the subway system.

“No one heading to their job or to visit family, or to go to a doctor’s appointment should worry that the person sitting next to them possesses a deadly weapon,” Hochul said at a news conference Wednesday.

The governor also announced a proposal to amend state law to allow judges to ban people convicted of an assault within the system from using MTA services as part of sentencing. Hochul said there is currently a provision that allows a transit ban as a term of sentencing for individuals who assault transit workers, but under her plan the provision would be extended to include assaults of anyone within the subway system.

Additionally, the five-point plan will seek to improve coordination between law enforcement, transit personnel and the city’s district attorneys on how to best combat crime in the subway system, including initiating regular meetings between the agencies to share information “regarding holding dangerous, repeat offenders within the system accountable.” Hochul said the first meeting is scheduled for next week.

“This will assist district attorneys with their casework and support existing efforts to keep violent offenders off the streets and out of the subways,” according to a statement released by Hochul’s office.

Hochul said she will also hire a new “criminal justice advocate” to assist the victims of subway crime and that the transit police officials will develop a new early warning system to flag recidivist offenders for district attorney offices during booking processes.

The MTA is also speeding up the installation of cameras inside subway cars. Hochul said new cameras will also be focused on conductor cabins to protect workers and assist police investigators in identifying and arresting assailants who target transit workers.

Hochul said she is allocating $20 million to expand the Street Conditions Observation Units or SCOUT team pilot program in partnership with New York City, which includes people trained to handle severe cases of people in the throes of a mental health crisis in the subway system. The governor said the additional funds will help rapidly scale up the pilot program to 10 teams by the end of 2025.

“The transit system is too important to the city and region to allow the perception of safety, or lack of it, to scare people away,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber, adding that his agency has already installed thousands of new cameras in subway stations aboard trains, adding to the 10,000 monitoring devices already working in the system and have “proven time and time again to lead to police apprehensions and even deter crime.”

Transit crime fell in February by more than 15% compared to a year ago, but subway crime in January was up 45% mostly due to grand larcenies.

“Rattling off statistics, saying things are getting better doesn’t make you feel better, especially when you’ve just heard about someone being slashed in the throat or thrown onto the subway tracks,” Hochul said, adding that a man was kicked onto the tracks over the weekend at the Penn Station subway stop and that three fellow riders pitched in to pull him out of harm’s way.

NYPD Transit Chief Michael Kemper said the number of arrests in the subway system rose 45% this year. More than 3,000 arrests were made in the subway system in the first two months of the year, many of them repeat offenders, Kemper said.

As an example of the recidivism problem, Kemper pointed to a 23-year-old woman released by a judge last week after she was charged with attacking a cellist playing in the subway. Amira Hunter was arrested again Tuesday, this time for stealing a $235 Moncler baseball cap at Nordstrom.

Hochul’s tough-on-subway-crime action comes after six people were shot, one fatally, at a subway station in the Bronx on Feb. 13. The shooting victims included four men and two women, whose ages ranged from 14 to 71, were all taken to local hospitals. A 34-year-old man died from gunshot wounds suffered in what police described as a random shooting.

On Feb. 23, a 45-year-old man was fatally shot during a fight that broke out in a subway car in the Bronx, authorities said. Three people were arrested in the slaying.

Hochul’s plan received immediate praise from some New York City prosecutors.

“New York’s subways are the beating heart that keeps our city moving, and the safety of riders and MTA employees is a top priority for my office,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. “The comprehensive plan proposed by Governor Hochul will help us achieve that goal and I thank her for the leadership and ongoing commitment to public safety. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with all of our partners to fight crime on public transportation.”

Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon added, “My team is eager to work with these new personnel and new technologies to both keep repeat violent offenders off our buses and trains, and to build the strongest possible cases against those who break the law and harm our quality of life.”

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