MTA, NYPD disagree over subway crime messaging

New York News

The W train passes an MTA official at the Mid-Day Storage Yard Services Building during a news conference on Positive Train Control, a federally mandated rail safety technology, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (PIX11) — “Stand clear of the closing doors” is the advice that begins every subway trip, but MTA officials have another warning: Be alert.

Some MTA board members questioned NYPD crime stats presented at their monthly board meeting. The overall percentage of crime is lower, according to the numbers. But assaults are up, and fewer riders taking the train.

The discussion went back and forth for about a half-hour. Board members and officials want more detailed data. “To say we are fear-mongering, that’s just not the case,” said NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg. “We are reflecting the riders’ worries, and we need to address that.”

MTA officials referenced a recent customer survey of 33,000 riders indicating they were more concerned with safety and harassment than COVID-19. Kathleen O’Reilly, NYPD’s Chief of Transit, calls these high-profile incidents isolated. “We need to get the message out there that the subway is safe and keep repeating that,” she said.

Hundreds of more officers are on patrol and undercover in the system this year. “If you look at the major stats, the crime numbers are up, especially when you account that the number of riders is down,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.

It’s a public relations battle as well, which is a theme that has also come up related to the two-hour overnight closure and cleaning of the system. Foye says they have to reassure riders that safety and health are being addressed as they return to the system. “Crime is up but the system is safe,” added Foye. “Both things are true.”

The NYPD Transit Bureau reviews the crime stats the same as other precincts as they deploy and respond to areas of concern. They say will step up the coordination with city homeless services.

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