Crime and Safety

Eric Adams says mental illness driving subway safety woes — not guns

Mayor Eric Adams U-turned Thursday and said that mental health issues — not illegal guns — are driving a months-long spate of violence underground on the subways.

Hizzoner acknowledged the link just days after he dismissed the premise Monday and blamed the surge in homicides and attacks underground on firearms flooding the streets of the Big Apple.

“When you do an analysis of the subway crimes we are seeing, you are seeing it is driven by people with mental health issues,” Adams told reporters during a press conference about an unrelated event in Brooklyn.

“If you got a ninja outfit on and you are running around with a sword, then something is wrong,” he said, apparently referring to an attack with a sword scabbard in the subway Thursday.

He then added: “Michelle Go’s murder,” referring to the fatal subway shoving attack in January that made headlines around the world, “you are seeing this mental health issue that we are facing.”

This is a sharp u-turn from his previous claims that illegal guns are causing the increase.
Mayor Eric Adams said that mental health issues are driving the subway crime spike.
Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA

Go’s attacker, Martial Simon, was deemed unfit to stand trial for reasons of mental illness and confined to an institution.

City Hall, Adams said, is looking to step up its response and would announce new efforts in the “couple of days” to combat untreated mental illness and homelessness in the subways.

The mayor’s remarks stood in sharp contrast to his statements earlier in the week, when he downplayed connecting untreated mental health issues to the spasms of violence on the subways, which exploded in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been a sharp increase in subway crimes in recent months.
Last week, Adams downplayed untreated mental health issues as the cause of increase.
Robert Miller

There have been nine homicides underground so far this year, up from six reported in 2021 and two in 2020. All of those figures are well in excess of pre-pandemic levels, when the system system usually averaged an entire year or more between murders.

“Success is no one being in any way impacted by anyone that’s dealing with emotional issues or violence because you sort of brought them both together,” Adams told a reporter.

“I think we have eight homicides this year, two more than last year,” he continued. “You can’t tie all of them to people with emotional issues.”

Go's shover was deemed too mentally ill to stand trial.
Michelle Go was killed by a subway shover in January.
Stephen Yang

When pressed why the homicide figures had surged, Adams then blamed guns — even though they’ve only been linked to three of the 17 homicides since the COVID outbreak.

“Those guns that are on our streets, they’re also in our subway system, they’re also in our schools,” he said. “They’re everywhere we are as innocent New Yorkers.”

Adams couched his about-face on Thursday by claiming that his remarks from Monday had been “misinterpreted” by reporters and that he had been talking about the fatal subway shooting of teenager on the Rockaways.

City Hall Press Secretary Fabien Levy disputed that Adams had reversed himself on the major causes of subway crime.

“As the mayor always says, there are many rivers feeding the sea of violence in our city, and we need to dam every one,” he said in a statement. “One of those rivers is gun violence and another is the mental health crisis.”

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