NYC subway crime: MTA promises progress; 'We have work to do'

The New York City Council questioned the MTA and NYPD about how the two agencies are prioritizing public safety in the subway system. The meeting took place just hours after a violent attack on Monday morning and days after an attack on Saturday night.  

"Faster, cleaner, safer" are the three improvements riders told New York City Transit they want to see. While MTA is working to cut down wait times and deep clean stations, it is still struggling to make trains safer. 

"We know have some work to do but certainly I think we made some progress in November," New York City Transit President Richard Davey told FOX 5 NY. 

Davey spent Monday morning answering questions from council members about making the subways safer. He said that although transit crime is up 30% for the year, it is down 23% for November.

"They keep talking about the crime stats are low for the month of November," said Charlton D'Souza, the president of Passengers United. "Well guess what, do you know how many people don't report crimes to the police? What about the people who are not reporting crimes, what about the people who are scared to come forward? So this situation is much worse than it is."

In addition to high-profile cases this fall, so harrowing that some New Yorkers have been scared off from the using the system, minor stabbings and assaults are frequent.

Police said a homeless man with a box cutter slashed another homeless man on a northbound No. 4 train at around 1:45 a.m. on Monday.

And around 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, a man punched and threatened to stab a 24-year-old woman at the Broadway and Canal Street station in Chinatown. Police called the attacked "unhinged."

"As long as we have these laws right now where criminals can just get out when they rob someone, you can put all the police you want out there it's still not going to change anything," D'Souza said. "Our subways are in a state of emergency. I've been saying this, I've been to all these crime scenes and we're fed up."

But Davey said he is listening. 

Alongside a beefed up police presence, Davey is lobbying legislators in Albany to allow judges to add MTA bans to sentencing, preventing offenders from getting on trains. He said the agency is tackling fare evasion by putting guards at turnstiles and slam gates and getting station agents out of the booth and on the platform. In addition to 10,000 cameras in the subway system, MTA just bought 5,400 more to put inside trains.  

"I'm very much an optimist," Davey said. "And I think what our surveys are telling us is customers are coming back."

Davey says 4 million people rode the subway last Thursday, a post-pandemic high unseen since March 2020. 

But due to the work-from-home phenomenon, ridership remains down. That is putting the operating budget deep into the hole. MTA is facing an annual debt of nearly $3 billion. Ridership can fix that, which is why NYC Transit needs people to feel safe.