Commuters on late night and early morning trains should expect to see more NYPD officers riding along with them as a response to the recent spate of slashings, officials said on Wednesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that the Police Department has started to increase subway patrols on and off the subway and that cops will also be equipped with radios that work below ground.
“You are going to see more police presence,” de Blasio said in a press conference. “You are going to see a more vigorous response. We’ve had this spate of slashings and we have to take it very seriously.”
The announcement is partly in response to concerns from commuters about an uptick in slashings and stabbings that have been recently plaguing the MTA system. According to Chief Joseph Fox of the NYPD Transit Bureau, there has only been a slight increase in subway crime. In January 2015, there were a reported 4.8 crimes a day compared to the 6.7 in January this year.
Officers will be stationed in trains, platforms, turnstiles and entrances and plainclothes officers will ride trains and perform platform inspections. A total of 60 police officers will patrol the Times Square station and canine units will also join patrols.
Bratton added that major felonies in the subway have significantly decreased since the 1990s even though ridership has swelled – major felonies in the subway system hit 2,502 in 2015 compared to 17,497 in 1990.
Officials also announced that for the first time, officers will be able to communicate underground. Previously, cops who patrolled the subways could not communicate with cops stationed above ground. The new program, which started as a pilot program in the Bronx, will reprogram radios so street-level officers can switch to a different frequency to communicate with transit cops.
The program will cost $100 million in MTA funding to build the additional infrastructure. Transit precincts in Manhattan have received this update while transit precincts in Brooklyn and Queens will receive the update in April and May, respectively.
Elected officials in Queens this Thursday are holding a town hall meeting to address public safety after a slashing and attempted abduction in their neighborhoods. State Sen. Jose Peralta and Assemblymen Francisco Moya and Michael DenDekker will meet with residents and the NYPD at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights from 6 to 8 p.m.
The NYPD will give a two-part special presentation about safety measures tailored for students and directed toward the general public. According to the officials, this town hall was organized in response to an attempted abduction of a 10-year-old girl in January and a slashing that occurred in East Elmhurst.
“As a member of this community I want my neighbors and constituents to feel safe in the neighborhoods they call home,” DenDekker said. “The best way for us to ensure the protection of our children and our community is to work together, and forums such as this one allow us to do just that.”