Less than a week after an NYPD transit cop was stabbed near a Coney Island subway platform, one of the city's top brass was forced to admit Monday that MTA crime was soaring.
NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox said felony assaults on the city's subway and bus system have jumped 26.9 percent in the first six months of this year. Robberies are up 19 percent.
Most worryingly, the spike in the crime rate on the subway coincides with a drop in the number of arrests. The number of arrests from January through May were down 17.1 percent, and summonses dropped 22.4 percent, according to numbers Fox presented at an MTA board meeting.
Fox said the about 70 percent of crimes were happening onboard subway cars, so he has reassigned more cops — many working overtime — to ride the trains to keep commuters safe.
“We want [officers] on trains to be present and visible,” Fox said.
Earlier this month, he said that one-quarter of subway crimes were thefts committed by crooks targeting sleeping straphangers.
MTA Board Member Jonathan Ballan demanded to know why arrests and summons had “plummeted.” Fox blamed some of the drop in arrests on the protests and funerals after NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot for some of the downturn. That, he said, led to a drop in arrests across NYPD bureaus in the early months of 2015.
He also said officers were focused on making arrests that matter. “We’re taking a greater focus on quality over quantity,” Fox said.
Both Fox and chief of department James O'Neill have certainly made their feelings about a crime spike known to the cops working beneath them. The New York Post reported that the two top cops dragged in commanding officers, detectives and lieutenants from transit bureaus around the city earlier this month.
Fox maintained the New York City subway is one of the safest systems in the world with continually increasing ridership, seeing about 5.7 million riders every weekday, and averaging about six major felony crimes per day.
Reported rapes, grand larcenies and burglaries were actually down over the previous year, he said, which means the overall major felony rate was only up 1.1 percent for the first five months of 2015, despite the uptick in assaults and robberies.
His move to put extra cops on the subways were also welcomed by commuters Monday.
"I think the increase in police is great for safety," said Megan Dunlap, 39, who was waiting for a train in Brooklyn. "There was an occasion lately when I came to Penn Station and noticed the increase and was sort of surprised, but then I felt safer."
"My husband had his iPhone stolen in the subway, so we really appreciate the added safety."
Sgt. Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, told Metro that he thought an uptick in shootings and other crimes in the city can be tied to recent protests and an “atmosphere of reactive policing” in light of recent protests.
“I think what’s important to look at is the overall trend for why we are seeing spikes in crime, what is the common denominator,” Mullins said. “I think there’s a direct correlation with that [reactive policing] with the spikes.”
“Maybe it’s just a spike, but a spike in every category [of crime] tells me something else is going on, and to me that’s a change in policy."
Mullins said the average straphanger should continue to be aware of his or her surroundings while riding the rails.
NYPD numbers through June 14 show murders are up 19 percent this year, and rapes are up 5.6 percent. Cases of assault, burglary and larceny are down citywide, according to the report.
Additional reporting by Miles Dixon