NYC subway safety plan kicks off after violent weekend

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s latest plan to tackle both crime and homelessness in subways went into action Monday after police recorded more than half a dozen attacks in trains and stations over the holiday weekend.

Mayor Eric Adams’ plan, announced Friday, is to send more police officers, mental health clinicians and social workers to the subways. Adams spokesman Fabien Levy said Monday a “gradual” implementation was beginning.

The plan notes that many people who use the subway for shelter need help, not handcuffs, but says police will crack down on sleeping, littering, smoking, drug use or dragging through the system. . It calls for getting all passengers off trains at the ends of their lines, an approach that has evolved and diminished over the years.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways, “knows there are people on the subway who need help and who must and will be helped. But they can’t stay on the subway,” the spokesman Aaron Donovan.

Adams, a Democrat and former transit police officer who took office last month, said Friday that allowing people to live on the subway is “cruel and inhumane” to them and unfair to other commuters and residents. public transport workers.

“The days of turning a blind eye to this growing problem are over,” said Adams, who has campaigned to improve public safety.

But Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless, warned of “the criminalization of homelessness and mental illness” and suggested the city fall back on strategies to policing that had failed in the past.

In recent years, the city has oscillated between responding to concerns about subway crime and complaints about brutal policing. The last mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, sometimes deployed more police to the system. Adams too, last month.

But in the weeks that followed, a woman was pushed in front of a train and killed under Times Square, a man was pushed onto the tracks and injured in a major lower Manhattan hub, and even the mayor said he didn’t feel entirely safe riding the busiest subway system in the country. It carried more than 5 million passengers on an average weekday before the coronavirus pandemic; the weekday average is now around 3 million.

Since Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announced the new security plan on Friday, six people have been stabbed or slashed at subway stations or on trains, according to the New York Police Department. Two teenage girls were arrested in one such attack, accused of punching a 74-year-old man in the face, pushing him to the ground and grabbing his mobile phone on Saturday afternoon after getting argued with them while they were smoking on a train.

On Monday, the Presidents Day holiday, a 58-year-old man was arrested for chasing another man with a hatchet around 12:30 p.m. at a Brooklyn subway station where police were stationed. The victim, who managed to dodge the hatchet, had asked why the assailant was looking at him, police said.

About two hours later, a man hit a woman in the face with a metal pipe aboard a subway train in the Bronx, police said. The woman, who refused medical treatment, told officers the man lashed out after asking her to stop talking with a friend of his. No arrests have been made in this case.

Donovan, the MTA spokesman, said while investigations into the weekend attacks are in their early stages, they “underscore the urgent need” for a new security plan.

Levy, however, advised New Yorkers not to confuse the “isolated acts of violence on the subway” with “the homeless relief issues that the mayor’s plan directly addresses.”

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