National Guard, state troopers, MTA police deployed in New York City subways

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, March 8, 2024
New Yorkers question 'militarization' of transit system
N.J. Burkett has the latest.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has ordered hundreds of National Guard members, MTA police and state police to the subway system after a series of recent high-profile crimes.

Hochul announced the move as part of her five-point plan this week. That includes deploying 750 National Guard members, 250 New York State and MTA officers to flood the subway system.

The NYPD is also ramping up more bag checks to 136 stations, covering nearly one-third of the system, and they will have 94 bag-screening teams.

MTA Chair Janno Lieber said the National Guard is only in "big stations" to start, insisting operations will expand to other stations.

For more than two decades, they have been a constant but discrete presence -- soldiers with the New York National Guard in camouflage, quietly watching the crowds from a distance.

For some riders, the soldiers are a welcome presence. For others, the spectacle is jarring and unnecessary.

The governor deployed the soldiers after denying the city's request for millions in overtime funding for the NYPD. The department's Chief of Patrol suggests that was a mistake.

"Our transit system is not a war zone," Chief John Chell posted on social media. "Bag checks have been around since 2005?"

While the deployments may make riders feel safer, jailing repeat offenders, he says, will actually make them safer.

"What we want the judges to do, when they have the opportunity to put a really bad recidivist, take them off the street after we do our job, the DA does their job and the judges do their job," Chell said. "That's what we want. You take care of those recidivists, crime will plummet in the city and the city will prosper and we're still the safest city in the world."

While some riders said they do feel safer, others think it sends the wrong message.

"New Yorkers want the subway to be safe, but the National Guard belong in Hamilton County, they belong in Erie County, not in New York City," said urban studies Professor Mitchell Moss. "The subways need to be safer and we need police to do that."

Meanwhile, Governor Hochul on Thursday tried to clear up any concerns by saying the National Guard will not be checking bags, rather serving as support staff.

"If you take it from the prospective of Mayor Adams and the police commissioner, rather than 750 national guardsman, state police, MTA police, they would've rather had the money. They got $60 million from the Transit Authority, and that let them flood the subway, but that's not the offer that's on the table right now," said Former NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller, a CNN Analyst. "They met with the state police, they're trying to figure out who is going to go where."

Hochul responded to the criticism, "Well I already have them already at my disposal immediately. You know, going through funding requests, goes through a budget process, it takes a lot longer. New Yorkers are worried right now."

"Their main mission is engaging with acts of lawlessness," said NYPD Transit Bureau Deputy Chief Timothy Skretch. "That's jumping the turnstile, use of drugs in the system, urinating in the system, and all type of complaints that we get from our riders."

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