By Julia Harte
NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York will seek to make the city’s subway system safer by increasing police patrols and expanding outreach to the mentally ill, Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams said on Friday, responding to a series of recent attacks on passengers.
The plan will expand psychiatric services in the city and, starting next week, send teams of clinicians, social workers, and police officers to urge mentally ill and homeless New Yorkers in the subway to seek help, they said.
An unusual number of passengers have been pushed onto the subway tracks by random assailants in recent months, including a Manhattan woman, Michelle Go, who was killed in January. Her murder was seen as part of a surge in hate-driven attacks against Asian Americans.
“The vast majority of the unhoused and mentally ill, let’s be clear on this, are not dangerous,” Adams told reporters at a Manhattan subway station. But “we have to be honest” about the increase in subway violence due to spiking homelessness in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The outreach teams will canvass subway platforms, stairwells and entrances to make contact with homeless individuals and follow up with housing support for them. Riders will see an increased police presence, Adams said, promising that officers would not be “heavy handed.”
Speaking at the news conference, Hochul said the plan sought to reassure frightened riders, such as “Asian women who go down in the subway and have to literally have their back against the wall because of the very real fear that something could happen to them.”
The plan builds on other recent efforts to crack down on subway crime. Since the city’s police department began sweeping the subway system more frequently in January, officers have conducted more than 115,000 station inspections city-wide, said Keechant Sewell, the New York City police commissioner.
(Reporting by Julia Harte; editing by Diane Craft and Tim Ahmann)