The New York Police Department deployed an additional 644 transit officers to the city’s subway stations in the wake of last weekend’s fatal stabbings of two passengers and the wounding of two others, though the move is being slammed as inadequate.
The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways, said that the additional deployment is well short of the 1,500 cops necessary to make riders feel secure enough to return to the subway en masse.
The NYPD this week said it would send 331 cops from the Transit Bureau as well as 313 patrol officers into 68 subway stations throughout the city. The department as a whole has more than 36,000 officers.
‘We are able to achieve this through overtime, deployment of officers normally assigned to administrative duties and re-assignment of other non-transit officers,’ NYPD Transit Chief Kathleen O’Reilly told the New York Post.
New York City police officers are seen above patrolling inside the Atlantic Avenue – Barclay’s Center subway station in downtown Brooklyn earlier this week
The NYPD deployed an additional 644 police officers to New York City subway stations days after Rigoberto Lopez, 21, was charged with killing two homeless people during a violent 14-hour spree. Lopez is being held without bail
Police released an image of the knife that Lopez allegedly used to slay two homeless people and wound two others last weekend
The officers will fan out through the system during the morning and evening rush-hour commutes.
‘The public can expect to see the surge in uniformed presence in the system for the foreseeable future, patrolling platforms, securing entryways and riding the trains,’ O’Reilly said.
‘I’m here to ensure all New Yorkers … that we are invested in keeping everyone safe.’
But the MTA’s Foye told WPIX-TV that the NYPD needs to send an additional 1,000 officers on top of the 644 that were deployed this week.
According to Foye, there were ‘well over 4,000 NYPD officers patrolling the subways’ in 1995.
Before the NYPD announced this most recent deployment, there were around 2,400 officers in the subways, according to Foye, who said that the public needs to see the same level of police engagement that was witnessed in 1995.
‘From a customer perception point of view, customers have to feel safe and secure for them to go back to the system,’ Foye said.
‘The MTA’s ridership is pivotal to New York City economy’s regional recovery, and we need additional police resources and importantly, additional mental health resources from the City.
‘There are too many emotionally disturbed people both on the streets and in the subways.’
The NYPD’s deployment of 644 additional officers to the subways this week is still woefully short, according to MTA Chairman Patrick Foye (right). NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea is seen left
Since the onset of the pandemic, ridership in the New York City subway system has plummeted some 90 per cent.
With most subway commuters working from home, the transit system has been badly impacted. Some studies have suggested that the pandemic has cost the MTA between $7billion and $8.5billion.
The move to deploy more police officers comes just days after authorities said Rigoberto Lopez stabbed four homeless people, two of them fatally, in the New York City subway system.
Lopez was arraigned on murder and attempted murder charges on Monday. A court complaint said he confessed to the attacks.
A message seeking comment was left for Lopez’s attorney.
Lopez, 21, who is said to be mentally ill, was taken into custody Saturday night at W. 186th St and Audubon Avenue in Washington Heights.
One victim was discovered dead on a subway train in Queens late on Friday with several stab wounds to his neck and torso, police said.
Two hours later, a 44-year-old woman, Claudine Roberts, was found stabbed to death in a subway car in upper Manhattan.
Police patrol the A line subway train bound to Inwood in Manhattan on Saturday after NYPD deployed more officers after the stabbings
Her father, Winston Roberts, told the New York Post that she struggled with mental illness since her teens.
She had been living in a shelter after recently getting out of a hospital, but she stopped by his home just Wednesday, he said.
‘I loved my daughter,’ he said. ‘I tried to do the best for her.’
Lopez is also charged in two other attacks in upper Manhattan subway stations late Friday and early Saturday. The victims, both men, survived.
Authorities believe all four victims were homeless.
The slashings over the weekend – in addition to the spike in violent crime throughout the city over the course of the nearly-year-long pandemic – have heightened concerns about if and when the city will return to normal.
NYPD figures show that 1,868 people were hit by gunfire in 1,531 separate shooting incidents last year — matching the combined totals for 2018 and 2019, when 1,820 victims and 1,531 shooting incidents were recorded.
Last year, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea blamed New York’s sharp rise in crime on New York’s new bail reform laws.
The MTA also said that transit workers were facing increased threats, harassments, and assaults since the state mandated that subway service be shut down overnight in order to disinfect the trains.
In May, the MTA shut down subway service between 1am and 5am each night so that the train cars could be thoroughly disinfected.
In the 116-year history of the New York City subway, it has halted overnight service just a handful of times, including extreme weather events or worker strikes.
Overnight service was also briefly suspended in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in Lower Manhattan.
Transit workers say that the empty train stations put them at greater risk.
Police are seen on the A line subway train bound to Inwood on Saturday looking for the subway slasher
According to the MTA, five subway workers have been assaulted between 1am and 5am since the abbreviated schedule went into effect last spring.
By comparison, there were just four attacks on employees between those hours between May 2019 and January 2020, when the trains were running on a full schedule.
But workers unions claim that the actual number of incidents in which transit employees are harassed and threatened is higher, though they are not counted since they don’t rise to the level of an assault as defined by state law.
Since August, the MTA has counted a total of almost 300 instances of harassment against transit workers during all hours of the day.
The MTA said on Monday that subways will run for two more hours every day starting later this month, and the nightly system shutdown for cleaning will be reduced as part of a phased reopening.
Starting on Monday, subways will run until 2am, and start again at 4am, the first expansion of operating hours since shutdowns were instituted in May of last year to allow for cleanings during the pandemic.
‘We have determined that a shortened overnight closure is an appropriate step forward towards the return of around-the-clock service,’ said Sarah Feinberg, interim New York City Transit president, at a press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The cleanings that had gone on between 1am and 5am will continue in the shortened shutdown period, she said.
‘We are confident that we can maintain the cleaning and disinfecting that we have been able to do thus far,’ she said.