Hochul to deploy National Guard, state police to combat NYC subway crime

MTA will ramp up bag checks and possibly add metal detectors in subways

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, March 7, 2024
New Yorkers react to armed National Guards, State Troopers deployed to city subways
CeFaan Kim has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Governor Kathy Hochul revealed a five-point plan Wednesday to bring additional state resources to bear on combatting subway crime in New York City.

The plan includes the deployment of 750 National Guard members and 250 New York State and MTA police officers into the subway system, and additional teams to handle cases involving people exhibiting signs of mental illness.

The new deployment adds to the additional 1,000 NYPD officers ordered into the subway last month to conduct bag checks and follows the slashing of a conductor and other high profile crimes.

Hochul is also calling for people deemed to be too dangerous by a judge to be banned from the subway. She is pushing for a state law that allows judges to block a person from riding the subway or buses for three years if they are convicted of attacking a passenger.

Hochul is asking for district attorneys to coordinate to keep these repeat offenders out of the transit system. Repeat offenders like Milton Hamlin, who is now back in custody after allegedly slashing a man riding on an A train Friday night.

The 46-year-old has been arrested nearly a dozen times since 2005, for crimes including assault and robbery. He's also a Level 3 sex offender.

Hochul said judges will "need to hold up their end of the bargain" by exercising their discretion to hold repeat offenders like Hamlin.

"They'll flag the criminal history at the time, so it can be fully considered when decisions regarding charging and bail are made," Hochul said.

Meanwhile, transit crime was actually down in February by more than 15% compared to February of 2023, but that follows a 45% increase in January, caused mainly by grand larcenies.

NYPD Transit Chief Michael Kemper said arrests in the subway system are up 45% this year and 3,000 arrests were made in the subway system in the first two months of the year, many of them repeat offenders.

"Why are we arresting people 100 times and once we make those arrests, why are they out within a day or two, sometimes," Kemper said.

WATCH | Mayor Adams and NYPD Transit Chief Michael Kemper spoke out on Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10 on how they are addressing crime in the subway system:

Mayor Adams and NYPD Transit Chief Michael Kemper discuss plans to make subway riders feel safe.

Officials last week released statistics showing violent crimes underground are up 13% this year compared with last year. However, City Hall tried to dispute the numbers saying crime actually dropped last month.

"Overall crime is down," said Mayor Eric Adams. "Double-digit decreases in subway crime in February 2024."

Adams credits stepped-up police deployments and hundreds more officers underground.

A larger police presence and random bag checks are just some of the ways officials hope to confiscate weapons and contraband before they get past the turnstiles. The mayor recently revealed that two high-tech weapons detection systems are in development.

"They are doing an excellent job in identifying razors, knives, scissors other sharp objects," Adams said. "To me, that's a low bar. I want to be able to identify a gun. We have seen some promising technology that I think in the next, you know, year we're going to really see something that people felt was not possible."

The governor says cameras will be on every car by the end of the year, and cameras in every conductor booth are some of the resources being considered to make the subway system safer.

PBA President Patrick Hendry lauded the measures taken by the governor, however, noted that this isn't a permanent fix.

"The NYPD is understaffed by thousands, and hundreds more cops are leaving each month. We need long-term solutions to keep our most talented, experienced police officers on patrol, both underground and on the streets," Hendry said.

And while the governor and city has made it a priority to curb subway crime, many riders say they don't feel safe.

Malik Britton says he plants himself where he can't be thrown into an oncoming train as a protective tactic during his daily commute.

"Away from the tracks and nobody could push me or be behind me," he tells Eyewitness News. "I'm pretty much against the beams."

For Abhijeet Singh, another fellow subway commuter, it's a matter of keeping a watchful eye.

"I have to watch my back," Singh said.

In fact, some riders say they feel even more concerned with the deployment of the National Guard.

"More nervous. Because I feel like it's more of a threat happening instead of just the police," subway rider Khadijha Lugo said. "So I don't think the national guard would be a good idea."

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU, said she feels the governor's move is "huge overreaction and overreach."

Experts say the deployment of the National Guard is not sustainable long term, likely only a few months -- just in time for when congestion pricing goes into effect.

RELATED: Eyewitness News Neighborhood Crime Tracker

ALSO READ: Bus driver arrested in crash with car in North Bellport: Police

An aid and five children were also on the bus.


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