Posted on March 7, 2024

National Guard and State Police Will Patrol the Subways and Check Bags

Maria Cramer and Ana Ley, New York Times, March 6, 2024

Hundreds of National Guard soldiers and State Police officers will patrol the New York City subway platforms and check riders’ bags beginning this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday.

A large show of force in the system, which is operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency, will help commuters and visitors feel safe, Ms. Hochul said.

Subway safety is a constant concern in New York City, where the system’s recovery is critical to the city’s rebound from the pandemic, and public officials can be as sensitive to the perception that mass transit is dangerous as they are to an actual rise in crime.

The additional law enforcement officers would add to an already large police presence in the subways, where Mayor Eric Adams ordered an additional 1,000 officers in February following a 45 percent spike in major crimes in January compared with the same time last year.

Grand larcenies — thefts without the use of force — were a main driver of the January spike in crime, according to the police. They are defined by the police as major crimes, along with homicides, assaults and robberies.

After crime rates retreated in February, the overall rise in major crimes for the year as of March 3 was 13 percent, Police Department data shows.

Ms. Hochul said she would deploy 1,000 members of the State Police, the National Guard and the transportation authority to “conduct bag checks in the city’s busiest stations.” {snip}


The announcement came as Democrats are trying to fend off concerns about crime ahead of the November election. In 2022, Republicans used the issue to clinch wins across the state in congressional races.

Since then, Democrats have walked a fine line, aiming to respond to voters’ public safety concerns without stoking fears about crime that could hand Republicans talking points.

The safety efforts were also announced about a week after New York City Transit workers stopped performing their duties during the morning commute after an overnight slashing attack on an A train that injured a conductor.

“These brazen heinous attacks on our subway system will not be tolerated,” Ms. Hochul said.

On Wednesday, less than two hours after Ms. Hochul made her announcement, a female conductor on a southbound No. 4 train said she was hit with a glass bottle as the train was pulling away from 170th Street station in the Bronx. The man who hit her fled, and no arrests had yet been made, the police said. The conductor was in stable condition.

Ms. Hochul’s announcement drew outrage from civil libertarians, who called the move an overreach that would infringe on the rights of commuters, but the union representing the city’s transit workers applauded it as “the beginning of real action.”


Under the governor’s plan, 750 members of the New York National Guard and an additional 250 personnel from the State Police and the M.T.A. will be scattered across the transit system, working with the New York Police Department. The governor said part of their focus would be to keep weapons out of the subway system.


The deployment is part of what Ms. Hochul described as a five-point plan, which would provide $20 million to pay for 10 teams of mental health workers who would help people on the subway. The plan would also introduce bills, which would have to be approved by the State Legislature, that would allow judges to ban people convicted of a violent crime from riding the subways, add cameras to train conductors’ control booths and coordinate with prosecutors to track repeat offenders.


But Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Ms. Hochul’s announcement failed to address “longstanding problems of homelessness, poverty or access to mental health care.”

Instead, the governor is leaning on “heavy-handed approaches” that could be used to profile Black and Latino people, she said.


As the city continues to come back from the pandemic, Mayor Adams has said that he wants to see an “omnipresence” of police officers on the subways. He was not at the news conference with Ms. Hochul, a departure from previous announcements when the two have stood side by side to announce public safety plans.


Mr. Adams has pressed the governor to provide extra state funds so the city could pay police officers overtime to patrol the subway system. Ms. Hochul has not met the mayor’s request, and on Wednesday, offered the National Guard and state police as an alternative to the city’s overtime plan.