As MTA Board discusses subway crime, mayor, police union spar over smartphones

Wednesday, April 27, 2022
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The full MTA board is meeting to talk about how to reduce subway crime, while Mayor Eric Adams is sparring with the police union over smartphones. NJ Burkett has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The full MTA board met Wednesday to talk about ways to reduce crime on the subway, including cracking down on fare evaders, while New York City Mayor Eric Adams has made it clear he's not happy with the way the increase cops are being deployed in the subways.

MTA chairman Janno Lieber says people entering the system without swiping is up from 3% to 12.5% over the past several years, costing the agency hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Transit officials insist that most violent crime in the subway begins with fare evasion, that many of the people who commit major crimes underground enter the system illegally.

"Fare evasion enforcement does pick up criminals and people with weapons before they get into the system," Lieber said. "It's one way of interdicting people who would commit crime, and over time, the knowledge that there is fair vision enforcement, we hope and expect, will deter the bad guys from coming into the system to do crime in the first place."

That's part of the reason he's convened a "Fareness Panel" to find ways to stop evaders.

Lieber has urged the NYPD to crack down on petty crimes like fare evasion and to keep the homeless from sleeping on the trains, an enforcement effort that he insists will make the system safer.

The NYPD has stepped up patrols underground, but transit officials say more officers need to be visible on the platforms and on the trains.

Mayor Adams is taking it a step further, insisting officers are spending too much time looking at their phones.

"I am disappointed in the deployment of transit police personnel," Adams said. "You walk downstairs and you see five transit officers standing at the booth looking at their phones. Just can't continue to do that. I want police officers on the train. You know, I was a transit cop. I rode the trains and I rode it by myself."

Adams is asking anyone who sees an officer on their phone to send him a photo of that officer, and he will go and talk to their supervisor himself.

He promised riders will see a difference in policing in the coming weeks.

PBA President Pat Lynch fired back at the mayor's allegation that police officers are more interested in patrolling their phones than subway platforms.

"New York City police officers did not ask for NYPD-issued smartphones, we were ordered to carry and use them" he said. "We are now required to document every minute of our tour on these phones. Every form we are required to fill out and every alert we receive comes through the phone. If there's a problem with cops using the phone on duty, NYPD management should change the policies and go back to pen and paper."

ALSO READ | 7 On Your Side Investigates subway crime: How likely are you to become a victim?

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