Two more straphangers met their gruesome end on Gotham’s subways over the weekend, bringing the transit-murder total in just over a year to eight. Before 2020 and 2021, it took five years for eight murders to occur on transit — and that was with much higher ridership.
“The events of the last 24 hours are horrifying,” says acting New York City Transit boss Sarah Feinberg. Yes, indeed.
The latest victims are a 44-year-old woman and an adult man, stabbed to death by an apparent stranger on two separate A trains. Two others were assaulted in the same 24 hours, possibly by the same attacker.
It’s just dumb luck that even more people haven’t died. A day before the two murders, a teenage boy was the most recent near-victim, tumbling to the tracks during a violent robbery. Over the previous week, almost a dozen people fell prey to various slashings and pushings.
The statistics back up the anecdotes. In January, though robberies fell, assaults were up an eyewatering 27 percent.
That follows a year during which violent transit crimes were consistently way up. Six murders in 2020, double the 2019 number. All of the murder victims were minority men. Seven rapes, more than double the previous year. Nearly 600 robberies, up 4 percent.
It’s an amazing feat, when ridership was at a tiny fraction of “normal” during March, April, May and June and is still only at 30 percent of 2019 figures. Plus, the subway is closed four hours a night.
It’s no coincidence, either, that crime enforcement — or, more accurately, crime prevention — was also way down last year. Arrests for beating the fare fell by 84 percent, for example. Civil summons fell 57 percent.
This, when fare evasion and other low-level violations, like smoking, are rampant. “People are jumping the turnstile, nobody pays for it no more,” one rider told The Post. “You need more cops on the subway.”
At least one-third of last year’s alleged subway killers beat the fare to enter the system.
What will it take for the mayor and the “transit-advocacy” community to protect terrified commuters, most of them essential workers? “We’ve been calling for more NYPD officers” for a year, says Feinberg. “I want people to see a uniformed presence throughout the system.”
Riders know how dangerous things have gotten. Last week, an immigrant construction worker went to accompany his girlfriend home from work on the subway — because, at the late-night hour of 8 p.m., he thought it was dangerous; he got stabbed in the stomach.
In a regular MTA poll in October 2020, only 42 percent of riders said they felt safe from crime on subway trains, a huge decrease from the 67 percent who felt secure the previous year. They are right.
The mayor, though, lives safely in blithe de Blasio Land. The week before the latest murders, Hizzoner’s response to the spate of shovings and stabbings was to say that the subways are safer than they were in 1990. “I remember when the subways were not safe at all,” he reminisced.
The NYPD said it would deploy 500 more officers underground. But cops can only do so much, unless the city keeps violent offenders behind bars; the suspect in this attack was freed in January on a pending felony assault charge.
The city’s “transit advocates” studiously ignore subway crime, because fixing it might involve policing, and acknowledging the need for police might look racist on Twitter, never mind what the actual riders want.
Transit advocates spent most of last week shaming the MTA for having removed a station bench, because benches are apparently appropriate shelter for vulnerable and mentally ill homeless people.
As for the homeless advocates? Last seen, they were suing the MTA — to secure for homeless people a right to live on the subway. The suit offers no acknowledgment that living on trains or in stations is perilous for disoriented or addicted people, even when murderers aren’t on the loose. At least four homeless or mentally ill people have died on the tracks lately, including the naked, mentally ill young man electrocuted on the rail in January after first pushing a commuter to the tracks.
New York needs to understand: There is not going to be a magical return to “normal.” This is normal. Transit ridership will remain at severely depressed levels indefinitely. We need a better strategy than wishing it were 2019.
Nicole Gelinas is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow.