As a New Yorker who loves the subways, I applaud Manhattan DA candidate Liz Crotty’s pitch for the city to hire 500 more cops to make the system safer. But it would be a waste of money if new hires were misused as the existing force is — that is, performing parade duty on station mezzanines rather than on train platforms, where riders are most at risk.
The NYPD doesn’t need “consultants” to perceive what’s obvious to anyone who uses the subway regularly, as I’ve been doing since 1972, mostly in Manhattan, but not infrequently in Brooklyn and Queens. Of 2,700 officers theoretically assigned to transit duty, I see few to none on the platforms, where roving head cases push helpless riders onto the tracks with terrifying frequency.
I was hardened to danger in the “bad old days”: the 1970s to the early ’90s. My residual street savvies from those days, which I long ago mothballed, come flooding back every time I descend into the subway. Like most of my fellow riders, I worry much less about getting mugged than about getting shoved.
But police presence in stations, when you can find any, does nothing to deter platform maniacs or reassure passengers. A platoon of cops upstairs wouldn’t faze an off-the-meds lunatic far removed from their sight down below.
Given the current run-up in terror, the platforms should be flooded with the sight of blue. The NYPD’s disinclination to do that reflects above-ground command abdication, as well.
It reeks of the push by some politicians and police unions to neuter or eliminate the COMPSTAT crime-tracking system, which places responsibility on individual commanders and officers.
Just as some cops would rather spend their time in two-person patrol cars than stroll the mean streets, so perhaps do many subway cops prefer idling on mezzanines to the dirtier business of platform patrol.
Without any visible track-level deterrent, psychos have the run of the place.
On Tuesday afternoon, mentally ill Calvin Wilson allegedly shoved a 26-year-old man off the A/C platform at the Fulton Street transit complex.
The victim survived. But when I roamed the vast station 24 hours later, I found no cops on any of the platforms. There were, however, three officers standing together near Dunkin’ Donuts on an upper level engaged in a lengthy conversation with a harmless-looking guy for whom they wrote a minor-offense ticket.
Fewer than 24 hours later, an elderly man was slashed across the face by a stranger for no reason on the L platform at First Avenue and East 14th Street. A week ago, a deranged, naked man pushed a stranger onto the track at 110th Street/Central Park North stop on the No. 6 line. The victim’s life was saved only when the madman, who jumped on the track to finish him off, perished himself when he hit the third rail. I’ve seen no cops in the station since.
At Grand Central at midday on Wednesday, the lone cop I spotted throughout the vast station’s tendrils idled at the top of the dining-concourse ramp, giving directions to confused tourists.
The closest thing to security visible at Herald Square a half-hour later were three private guards wearing uniforms of Allied Universal Security Services hovering on the mezzanine near the stairs. Not a single uniformed cop was to be seen in a huge station that boasts its own NYPD Transit District 4 bureau facility.
An NYPD rep told us that some “resources” on trains and platforms are “unseen” — including security cameras monitored remotely and plainclothes cops who “do not stand out.” But those tactics can only respond to crime. They don’t deter it.
Asked whether mezzanine deployment was more efficient than on platforms, the rep said that the “nexus between unlawfully entering the subway and the propensity to commit other crime” makes “police presence at the turnstiles or mezzanines a core component of effective transit policing.”
That’s all but an admission that cops have given up on doing their jobs where it matters.
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