NEW YORK (WABC) -- The NYPD and MTA say crime is down on the subways and even lower than pre-pandemic levels, but commuters are still worried about their safety.
"You just have to be kind of smart about it, to be aware of your surroundings."
Riders are still watching their backs, after months of relentless headlines about crime in the New York City subway.
"I feel a little bit safer, but not as safe as I could be," said subway rider Eugene Calamari. "I have to watch my back."
But the NYPD's chief of department says the reality is far different: That crime is finally falling.
"We are making measurable, sustained progress," said NYPD Chief of Department Ken Corey.
Corey told MTA board members that this summer, the overall rate of transit crime fell below pre-pandemic levels.
"Crime in transit was 8.6% lower this year than it was in 2019," Corey said. "A difference of 339 crimes."
The chief insists that the department's policing strategies are paying off. That includes adding 350 officers to patrol the system, while ordering other officers to conduct station visits while on routine street patrol.
Officers are also enforcing so-called quality of life offenses, like panhandling and boarding the trains with piles of trash, smoking and fare evasion.
Chief Corey insisted that homeless outreach has been stepped up.
"We now have service providers there, we now have clinicians, and we're getting people the help they need," Corey said.
Union president Tony Utano praised the department's efforts.
"Chief Corey's presentation today strongly indicates to us that the mayor is following through on his commitments," Utano said.
In June, the MTA surveyed riders and found that barely half were satisfied with the subways-and that crime was a major factor. One of the crimes most feared by riders is felony assault-which is up 18 percent.
"We have a lot more work to do," Corey said. "But what I'm seeing right now is measurable, sustained progress."
When Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett specifically if the worst was over for crime in the transit system, Chief Corey answered, 'Yes' without a hint of hesitation.
Driving down crime was a challenge, but convincing skeptical riders could prove no less difficult.