New York City to equip subway cars with security cameras amid rising crime, decreased ridership

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have pledged to increase law enforcement presence in the city’s subway system which has seen ridership levels drop.

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New York’s subway cars will be outfitted with surveillance cameras amid significantly decreased ridership linked to public fear of crime during the COVID-19 pandemic, state lawmakers declared this week.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced an effort to equip each of the 6,400-plus cars operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with two cameras by 2025, as reported by the New York Times.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams calls the police while keeping his eye on a fight in the street while waiting for the subway to City Hall in New York, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Adams called to report an assault in progress. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Per the outlet, Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have pledged to increase law enforcement presence in the city’s subway system which has seen ridership levels drop to 60% of what it was before the pandemic. The train cars have increasingly been the scene of robberies, stabbings and quality of life offenses such as urination and smoking in recent years.

“You think Big Brother is watching you on the subway?” Hochul said Tuesday at a press conference in Queens. “You’re absolutely right. That is our intent: to get the message out that we’re going to be having surveillance of activity on the subway trains, and that’s going to give people great ease of mind.”

The $5.5 million effort will further a pilot project launched by the MTA in June which installed cameras in over 100 cars after a malfunctioning security system led to difficulties in the search for a shooting suspect in Brooklyn, per the Times.

Despite cameras lining the city’s approximately 500 MTA-operated subway stations, the lack of safety measures in train cars transporting millions of passengers daily reached a breaking point for many New Yorkers after pandemic shutdowns.

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Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced an effort to equip each of the 6,400-plus cars operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with two cameras by 2025, as reported by the New York Times. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“I don’t trust the system,” Bardia Gharib, a Manhattan resident and boxing coach who now drives his son to school instead of allowing him to take the train due to concern for his safety, told the Times. “The people are dangerous.”

Through July 2022, the New York Police Department has tallied 2,800 reported crimes in the subway system, which roughly matches the numbers through July of 2019, however, represents increased offenses per capita due to decreased ridership, the outlet reported.

While only around 600 arrests have resulted from those reports, the department said there was a 160% increase in tickets issued for quality of life offenses in 2022, with 10,000 additional summonses written for offenders caught urinating, smoking, drinking, and occupying multiple seats this year than in 2021.

Pushes to encourage New Yorkers to return to regular subway use comes as the transit authority forecasts a possible $2.5 billion deficit in 2025 due to decreased farebox revenues. Compounding citywide economic challenges from less tourism and less employment and tax revenue is also affecting the transit authority.

Early reports show successes in the surveillance effort. While an April survey by the Partnership for New York City showed that 53% of employers reported workers not wanting to return to offices due to safety concerns, a follow-up survey earlier this month showed the number decreased to 24%.

“The expanded police presence really made a huge difference,” Kathryn S. Wylde, the partnership’s chief executive, told the Times. “What people were looking for is that we’re serious about reclaiming the subways as safe territory.”

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