March 11, 2024

New York Subways

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans [last] Wednesday to send the National Guard to the New York City subway system to help police conduct random searches of riders’ bags for weapons following a series of high-profile crimes on city trains. Hochul, a Democrat, said she will deploy 750 members of the National Guard to the subways to assist the New York Police Department with bag checks at entrances to busy train stations.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is critical of the plan, arguing that crime in the subway is down and that soldiers will not help the mentally ill.

Crime is not up in New York City, but down over the last year, as is violent crime and transit crime. Though assaults on the subway have grown slightly (there were 570 felony assaults in 2023, compared to 539 in 2022), that small increase reflects higher ridership levels… The latest crime data from the N.Y.P.D. shows that major crimes committed in the subway are down more than 15 percent compared to last year.”

David Wallace-Wells, New York Times

“The shocking murder of Michelle Go, a woman pushed onto the tracks in 2022, was committed by a mentally ill homeless man. Jordan Neely, a subway performer who’d suffered from addiction and mental illness, was choked to death by a man now facing manslaughter charges (to which he has pleaded not guilty), after Neely began shouting and acting out on a subway car, frightening passengers…

“Many of the problems underground — in substance and definitely in perception — spring from the disorder linked to the thousands of seriously mentally ill people who are estimated to be on the streets and subways of the city… Approaching and offering treatment to mentally ill people is tough, demanding work that requires social workers, not soldiers.”

Errol Louis, CNN

“The governor has admitted that her extreme move to militarize the subways is really just about vibes. ‘We have seen a number of crimes, and again, not statistically significant, but psychologically significant,’ Hochul told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough Thursday morning. ‘If you feel better walking past someone in a uniform to make sure that someone doesn’t bring a knife or a gun on the subway, then that’s exactly why I did it.’”

Marisa Kabas, MSNBC

Some argue, “In recent weeks alone: A subway conductor was stabbed in the neck. A man struck a rider in the head with a hammer. A rider was slashed with a box cutter in what the police say was a homophobic hate crime. A cellist was attacked while playing in a Midtown station…

“These kinds of crimes remain rare in New York, which is still the safest big city in the United States. But even though they are uncommon, violent crimes cause great harm to survivors, and their retelling unsettles listeners who can imagine being in the same situation… If Hochul’s deployment of state officers can provide even some psychological comfort, nudging additional riders back to the subways, it could help the system become safer.”

Mara Gay, New York Times

From the Right

The right is critical of the plan, arguing that a better solution would be to roll back progressive criminal justice reforms.

The right is critical of the plan, arguing that a better solution would be to roll back progressive criminal justice reforms.

“Having lost the will to protect life, limb and personal property by traditional means — that is, by enforcing the penal and criminal-procedure codes — New York now takes tentative steps toward overtly militarized policing… [This is] a political stunt — undertaken to divert attention from her unwillingness to confront the core problem: the hammerlock crime-tolerant progressivism has on public policy in New York.”

Bob McManus, New York Post

“Yet sending in the military to protect mass transit is also in some sense a sign of societal and political surrender. It means that New York has concluded that it can’t protect its citizens with a normal police presence, or with the laws against vagrancy that once prevailed, or with prosecutors who used to put people in jail for crimes against public order…

“We’ll see how long Ms. Hochul keeps the Guard underground, but it can’t be forever. The real solution is to fire progressive district attorneys and revive the anti-crime policies that worked so well in the 1990s and 2000s. But that would mean taking on the Democratic left, which she refuses to do.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Though police can enforce the law, they have no power to keep recidivist suspects behind bars, whether awaiting trial or after conviction. So police arrest the same people over and over again. As Janno Lieber, chief of the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said last week, ‘of 45 people [who] were arrested for employee assaults’ last year, ‘only 11 were indicted. That gives me concern.’…

“Cops caught a Bronx felony pickpocket mid-crime earlier this year. It was the suspect’s third arrest for grand larceny in two months, and his 55th career arrest. One alleged assailant who hit an MTA supervisor with a mop wringer last year had the case dismissed; another, who struck a worker with a broomstick, had the charge downgraded from assault to harassment and was ordered to take an anger-management course. An assailant who allegedly committed two assaults on MTA workers, striking one with a metal pipe, had the case dismissed…

“New York ruptured nearly three decades of public-safety success in the few years leading up to 2019 with its efforts to ‘reform’ cash bail, discovery, and juvenile justice…  National Guard members can’t make arrests—and we have no shortage of arrests right now, in any case. We just can’t keep suspects off the streets or prosecute them quickly and decisively.”

Nicole Gelinas, City Journal

A libertarian's take

Hochul's plan probably doesn't address the actual issue, which has less to do with a criminal free-for-all and more to do with erratic mentally ill people who essentially use the subway system as free shelter, and sometimes act out with violence. ‘The [subway disorder] problem got worse in 2017, when Transit Police stopped enforcing loitering and related subway rules to keep homeless and mentally ill people and drug addicts from living and sleeping in the subway system. This [was] simply a political choice,’ wrote Peter Moskos…

“Exiling mentally ill people from select public spaces doesn't sound like a solution that solves underlying needs. But it is a solution that possibly returns subways to the people who pay for them, and to their original use. Perhaps New Yorkers would instead prefer to have cops going through their handbags during rush hour so they can feel like the city has finally started to do something. The problem is that the something actually matters, and that random searches, which violate people's privacy, should not be taken lightly or instituted for political gain.”
Liz Wolfe, Reason

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