Crime and Safety

Eric Adams Metro is safer, but not safe enough

How safe is the subway? Hours before a gunman wearing a skull-and-bones mask shot and killed a stranger on a Manhattan N train, Gov. Katie Hochul assured us they were much safer than they had been last year. Guess what? They are. But they are nowhere near as safe as they were before the pandemic.

The governor, standing with Mayor Eric Adams on Fulton Street on Friday, delivered the good news. The increase in the number of police officers in the metro, which began just before the election of Hochul, was of great importance.

With 1,200 additional subway cops daily, “we are seeing a 16% reduction in subway crime” in “a very short time,” Hochul said.

The subway is certainly safer than a fall, with New York City having four subway murders in just over a month.

The increased security proves that good police work. Arrests have increased by nearly two-thirds, fare evasion cases have more than doubled, and quality-of-life calls have also doubled, NYPD Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael Kemper said.

“If you want to hurt someone, it’s a powerful deterrent when you know there’s a cop,” the governor said.

But contrary to another claim made by Hochul and the NYPD, the subway is nowhere near as safe as it was before the lockdown, and therefore nowhere near safe enough.

Hochul noted that before COVID, there were 1.5 violent crimes per 1 million trips on the subway. This rate nearly doubled to 2.8 crimes per million but dropped again to 1.7 crimes per million trips, a “surprising trend”.

The trend is good, but this overall picture ignores worrying details.

Eric Adams Metro is safer, but not safe enough
NYPD at the scene of the Manhattan subway shooting on January 28, 2023.
Robert Messiah

Hochul talks about Everybody criminal offense, thus conflating violence—murder, rape, robbery, and assault—with non-violent grand larceny.

if you look accurate in violent crime, we are still far from the norm.

In 2019, the last normal year, there were nearly 1.7 billion trips on the subway and 2,469 criminal offenses. Of these violent crimes, 917 were violent, or the serious violent crime rate per million trips is 0.54.

In 2020, there were 928 violent crimes on the subway and 639 million trips — triple the rate of serious violent crime, 1.5 per million trips. In 2021, the rate remained high at 1.3 violent crimes per million trips.

In 2022? With just over a billion trips, the violent crime rate was nearly 1.2 per million trips.

And just from October to December 2022, the months that Hochul and Adams advertise? (Disaggregated data for January is not yet available.) In these three months, 305 serious crimes were committed against 311 in the same three months in 2021.

There were 278 million rides on the subway in the fall of 2022, up from 245 million the previous fall, and violent crime rates fell to 1.1 per million last year from 1.3 per million in 2021.

So yes, Hochul and Adams are right – 1.1 violent crimes per million trips is better than 1.5 as it was in 2020.

But this still double the 2019 level of 0.54.

You do not likely become a victim of a violent crime in the subway. But you are more than twice as likely to be such a victim than you were in 2019.

Hochul noted that in a very short time, the number of crimes in the subway has decreased by 16%."
Hochul noted that, “in a very short time,” subway crime has dropped by 16%.
Matthew McDermott

Recent incidents show how difficult it is to even maintain this while relying on the police to plug holes in the rest of the criminal justice system.

The alleged perpetrator of the first subway murder in 2023, André Beuys, was paroled for multiple violent crimes when he fatally shoved another gunman two weeks ago.

A week later, teenagers arrested for assaulting and knocking Fox News meteorologist Adam Klotz on a Manhattan 1 train were immediately released.

Three have been released without charge under changes to the state’s juvenile justice law. The fourth, 18-year-old, received a misdemeanor summons.

Just last week, police arrested an alleged Upper East Side shoplifter and released him without bail. A few hours later, he allegedly attacked an elderly woman in a nearby subway.

Cops can make subways safer with their expanded presence, which is worth $200 million a year; at this point the state is lifting the tab.

But the cops alone can’t make them as safe as they were in 2019. Hochul needs to make sure the rest of the government-created criminal justice system is doing its job too.

As Adams put it, “Are we going a long way? You are damn right.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor for the City Journal of the Manhattan Institute.

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