Subway crime is issue of perception, MTA says

Violence in the New York City Subway system was one of the biggest topics at an MTA board meeting on Wednesday, with agency leaders put on the spot to address what they're doing to combat the problem.

Crime is actually up 40% this year compared to last year, but nowhere near the highs it reached in the "Bad Old Days" of the 1970s and 80s.

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MTA officials say the primary issue at the moment is one of perception, but not all New Yorkers are accepting that as an explanation.

"Last month at the board meeting, we were all told the subways were safe and everything was good and ridership is coming back," said Charlton D'Souza, a member of the non-profit Passengers United. "Well guess what? We've had 4 people killed in the subway."

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"We completely respect and share what the riders are feeling," MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said. "We have less, broadly speaking, less subway transit crime, numerically, than we had before COVID."

Much like Mayor Eric Adams, Lieber attempted to put the number of crimes on the subway system into context, comparing the number of people who actually ride the subway with the number of crimes.

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"Put it in proportion," Lieber said. "We are a city every day of 5 million people plus, even today, on mass transit. We have 5 to 6 major crimes, that's about the size of Los Angeles. There were 5 to 6 major felonies in Los Angeles, we'd all be thrilled."

One thing the MTA contends is working is its efforts to cut down on fare evasion. The agency spoke publicly about a new pilot program, quietly rolled out a few months ago, involving unarmed guards stationed at the slam gates at 6 stations, leading to what officials say was a dramatic increase in fares being paid unjust the last 6-8 weeks.