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NYC violent crime, homelessness causes massive drop in subway ridership: ‘Crime is out of control’

The leader of New York City‘s transportation agency, MTA, said Wednesday that the increased violent crime and pervasive homelessness seen in the subway system can largely be attributed to the drastic drop in ridership between December and the first few weeks of the new year. 

During a meeting Wednesday, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber, an appointee of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, recognized that despite added police presence in the subway system, he still witnessed “drug use and disorder” during a recent visit to Penn Station, a major metro hub for commuters. 

“Our riders are letting us know that they don’t feel safe,” Lieber said. “Our workforce is scared in addition to our passengers. Our workforce is scared because they’re feeling vulnerable.”

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His remarks come two weeks after Deloitte employee Michelle Alyssa Go was fatally pushed in front of a subway train at Times Square by a mentally ill homeless man, according to police. 

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) data shows roughly 2.5 million riders used the subway system on Monday, representing a 36% drop over the last month compared to the about 3.4 million riders per weekday recorded in the second week of December, NY Daily News reported. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, MTA chief customer service officer Sarah Meyer shared photos she’s received from customers so far this month, as her department fields through complaints about “people behaving erratically on the train on the platform, and who are making them feel uncomfortable of even unsafe.” 

That includes people smoking and doing drugs in train cars and on platforms, aggressive panhandling, especially without mask wearing, she said. Lieber shared a picture he took while riding the Q train last week showing that homeless people have been camping out not only in stations but also in train cars.

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“Every day the pictures keep rolling in,” Meyer said. “Our customers care about our city, our transit system and their fellow New Yorkers. And it breaks all of our hearts to see pictures like this.” 

“At several stations, we have so many used needles on the tracks, that we have to send out tracking cleaning every other day,” she said. “When I look at these pictures, when you look at these pictures, there is no doubt, that there are people in need. And help can’t come soon enough.” 

“I cannot believe that I’m the only person who believes the New York City subway crime level is out of control,” according to one customer’s complaint read by Meyer in the meeting. “Most of my colleagues avoid taking the subway because of crime, violence and mentally ill people.” 

Days before the high-profile subway shoving of Go, the governor, joined by New York City Eric Adams, vowed to send additional law enforcement and social workers into the subway system. 

Michelle Go, left, and suspect, Simon Martia, being arrested. 

Michelle Go, left, and suspect, Simon Martia, being arrested. 
(LinkedIn, WNYW)

“The governor and the mayor stepped up and said specifically that they were taking on responsibility for the law enforcement side of this and the mental health side of this,” Lieber said Wednesday. 

MTA Board member Vincent Tessitore Jr., who represents union workers for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), called for more enforcement for the law intended to protect transit employees. 

“We have to do something to make people more accountable when they do get caught,” Tessitore said, according to Newsday. “The leading reason why our employees are getting hurt is because they say to someone, very respectfully, ‘You need to put a mask on.’ In today’s world, that gets you smacked.”

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Mayor Adams has been working to combat crime outside of subways, especially after the deaths of two NYPD officers fatally wounded in the line of duty while responding to a Harlem domestic incident. 

President Biden is expected to visit New York City next week to meet with Adams on gun violence. 

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