The Time of Nobody Watching Is Over, NYPD Transit Chief Tells CB7 Committee; More Subway Patrols and Tickets

By Molly Sugarman

“This isn’t a return to broken windows, it’s a return to common sense,” was CB7 Board Chair Steven Brown’s response to efforts being made to reduce crime and quality-of-life problems in the subway system.

In his presentation to the CB7 Transportation Committee on Tuesday, May 10, NYPD Transit Police Chief Jason Wilcox acknowledged that there is a lot of fear about riding the subway. “We are trying to turn the fear around,” he said, “We are trying to restore order and calm.”

Part of that effort is cracking down on quality-of-life issues in the subway: smoking, urinating, taking up multiple seats to sleep, and so on. Summons for these types of incidents have increased 92% this year, compared to last year, Wilcox said.

“This is a problem in Chicago, San Francisco, and Philly,” Andrew Albert, Transportation Committee co-chair, observed. “It’s like the pandemic made people out of their minds.”

Fare evasion has also increased, Wilcox noted. “The message sent out the last few years is that nobody is watching,” he said. “That’s over. We are going after this problem.”

Albert noted that fare evasion hurts those who can least afford it. The millions of dollars lost could be used for better service or to prevent fare increases, he said.

The NYPD has increased transit patrols and is working with teams of physicians, nurses, and others to engage homeless people and get them services and shelter, Wilcox said. “We are making it a team issue, not a police issue,” he added.

As part of that approach, he encourages the public to report any infractions they see to an MTA employee — such as the person in the booth — or to call 311. If possible, include the number of the car in which the problem occurred. It can be found at either end of the car and on the outside.

Sheldon Fine, a member of the CB7 Board, recounted his efforts to report a man taking up six seats on a subway car. He suggested that the MTA make public service announcements, telling people what to do if they see something inappropriate going on. Albert added that the electronic signs in the stations could be used to encourage people to report.

Erena Stennett, a member of the committee, noted that the 96th Street station is the worst, but that it has an entry on 93rd Street that has many incidents as well, especially panhandlers harassing riders.

“The chief thing I want people to do is get hold of us,” Wilcox said. “Don’t just walk away. I want to know what is going on as soon as possible.”

Committee member Doug Kleiman noted, “This is music to my ears. I am a firm believer that the city does not come back without the subway system.”

NEWS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. MaryC says:

      The 93-94 street entrance to the 96th street 1, 2, 3 subways no longer has booth attendants despite signs outside indicating that it’s staffed in the morning and early afternoon. The booth has been boarded up for more than a year. No wonder that it has become such a free for all.

    2. Mkin says:

      I am so, so happy you wrote about this because I was just having a conversation this morning with some officers on 102 and Bway. I wanted to understand how they work with the transit cops. Unfortunately they are 2 separate entities and this week when I went to find one @5:20pm from coming up from the subway..NO ONE at 96th street…I was so enraged. On a #2 there was a completely strung out woman bothering passengers and falling all over the place. I noted the train # so I could tell the police (who are usually upstairs) to call ahead to the next station…NO ONE. This is all a smoke and mirror game of who is really minding the subways.

      • Juan says:

        When the police see this type of person, they need to immediately remove them from the train and, when in doubt, invoke Kendra’s Law. If someone is so strung out that they cannot speak coherently or behave appropriately, they are putting the rest of us at risk.

        The rights of the rest of us should not be sacrificed to protect the rights of those who are a danger to society.

        Unlike many fellow UWSers, I trust the officers to use their judgement in making these decisions. We have swung too far in the opposite direction of not letting them use their judgement at all. Yes, there are some rotten police officers, but the vast majority are good.

    3. Dominic Frigosi says:

      “…smoking, urinating, taking up multiple seats to sleep,” Not to mention slashings, stabbings, assaults, groping, rape, screaming and ranting homeless, panhandling, defecation, masturbation, and everything else the previous administration liked to pretend wasn’t a problem. Time to face facts, not bury or silence them.

    4. Vanya says:

      311 is a joke, it takes 10 minutes to getanywhere on it and then they close the case asap

      • Lisa says:

        Vanya is correct, sadly. 311 is designed to prevent you from reaching the person responsible for solving the problem (ie, the appropriate city agency) while at the same time generating reams of data to make it appear as though the City is doing something, thus enraging/wasting the time of the person who called.

    5. Maxine Spector says:

      I have yet to see police on a subway car. Masking is only 2/3, at best, also on buses. Someone had their pit bull on a bus.

    6. Otis says:

      I take the subway to work and every day I see people jumping turnstiles and homeless sleeping on trains.

      Unfortunately, for all the talk about cleaning up the subway nothing is being done. The police are afraid to do their jobs.

      It’s no wonder people are fleeing the city.

    7. Frank says:

      Thanks for the laugh of the day.

    8. Concernedsmallbusinessowner says:

      It’s about damn time. How many people need to complain over and over about the aggressive panhandling on our sidewalks (that are turning violent) to get a reaction? The subway is a great start but will CB7 start to PUSH the elected officials (aka City Council, State Assembly & State Senators) to finally DO SOMETHING?

      Will CB7 fight for this neighborhood? People are scared to walk around. How many more stores need to leave and become vacant because of the loss of customers, store thefts and robberies???

      The elected officials are IGNORING this – just read their Twitter or newsletters, full of anything else BUT public safety on our sidewalks, let alone the subway.

      CB7, DO SOMETHING and push them!! You are our representatives, right?

    9. Ed says:

      Until we can observe more police in more subway cars, the bulk of riders will stay away. Police standing in groups, chatting outside the subway entrance will not help the situation.

    10. Ben says:

      Just another one of those “all talk, no show”. Still waiting for Eric Adams to actually come through on his promise to remove people not using the subway system from stations. Been three months, nothing changed.

    11. ST says:

      How about a return to broken glass? Can something be done about the fact that broken glass litters the landscape of our city and parks?

    12. AL says:

      i think they must be joking right? I could stand at most subway turnstiles myself handing out tickets all day long to fare evaders – hardly any of whom look poverty stricken. Passengers in general just seem to have a me-myself-I attitude since COVID – taking up seats with their bags etc. That’s apart from all the other stuff going on.

      • Anthony says:

        what do we expect when the NY AG sued NYC when the NYPD began to implement a fare beating task force which put more cops in stations where it was happening most. The AG claimed it was discriminating against people of color, which is nonsense, they just went where it was happening.

      • Lisa says:

        Exactly. There is no fear of consequences so everyone’s like “they are, so why shouldn’t I?”

    13. Joe says:

      Please arrest people for jumping the turnstile.

    14. dc says:

      I now take the bus as often as possible and encourage my daughters to do the same.

      Hoping the safety issues with the subway will finally be addressed.

    15. Caryn Greenberg says:

      How do I reach NYPD Transit Police Chief Jason Wilcox. I would like to discuss with him what I have seen, said, done, and the response I received when taking the subway. People who know me tell me I should watch what I say, people are afraid, so they do nothing, I am not. Should I be?

    16. UWSconcerned says:

      I was waiting on the B platform at the 72nd st stop last weekend when a man standing near me started urinating on the platform. First time I have ever seen something like that at that stop.

    17. UWS Wes says:

      I was walking down the platform at 72 st on Wednesday and as a 1 train was leaving I was hit by a wooden table leg. It came flying out of the driver cab window. Two people had broken in there and were blowing the horn. Completely lawless.

    18. Will says:

      There are a few trolls in these comment sections, some of these incidents seem written by the same person and I’m skeptical

    19. biffmeister says:

      The broken windows policy is totally logical and it works, so it needs to be embraced 100%, not piecemeal. The arguments against it are woke nonsense. If people don’t want to get arrested, don’t commit the crime!!
      Pay the fare, piss in a bathroom and don’t sleep on the subways.

    20. Fielding Mellish says:

      …and lately there’s been some character who has taken up residence at the NE staircase @103rd and Broadway.
      Just stands there (barely) sucking back mini booze bottles…

      • Tim says:

        Yes, why can’t something be done about him. He’s lived in the 103 station for over a year. He is either on the bench or standing/blocking the bottom of the stairs

    21. Kenneth says:

      I cannot remember any recent time when, in the 2 minutes I’m near a turnstile, that I have not seen someone squeeze around, hop over or enter through an exit door. Doesn’t matter if the 86th Street B/C, 93rd St 1/2/3 or Wall Street 2/3. There is a guy at 93rd who acts as a doorman and charges people a dollar to enter through the exit. 86th B/C is a joke – people literally line up waiting for the door to open when people exit. Subway fare collection is largely on the honor system – and the honor is sadly missing in many cases.

      • SB says:

        The entreprenurial guy at the 93rd St. 1/2/3 is there most days of the week with his discounted fare deal offered to every commuter. I’m still surprised that no one shoos him away and mans the booth down there. It’s not an isolated incident, he actually shows up and does the job. Maybe the MTA should hire him…

    22. Charlotte says:

      Took the subway today at West 79th and came back through West 72nd street. NO Police at all! Aggressively panhandled by homeless on both trips. Why? They pick elderly women as easy targets. Very disappointed.

    23. Yumama G. says:

      Attend your precinct Community Council meetings! Voice your concerns to your precincts instead of venting about them online. Its like watching an incident and recording it instead of calling 911. Nothing gets accomplished that way.

      • Lisa says:

        Yumama G. – I think you have this backwards. It takes much more time to attend a Community Board meeting than to comment on this blog. Practically no one has that tine. So why don’t Community Board members read these blog comments and take them to heart? That is their job.