Significant progress made on New York subway and transit safety initiatives

Posted: 31 January 2023 | | No comments yet

Following the launch of new safety initiatives in October 2022, new data has shown that significant progress has been made on subway and transit public safety across New York.

Significant progress made on New York subway and transit safety initiatives

Credit: Marc A. Hermann/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Governor Kathy Hochul; Mayor Eric Adams; MTA Chair & CEO, Janno Lieber; and NYPD Chief of Transit, Michael Kemper, at the Fulton Transit Center on 27 January 2023, where they announced a decrease in subway crimes and increase in customers’ feelings of safety.

The Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, and the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, have announced new data that shows significant progress on subway and transit public safety initiatives that were introduced in 2022. 

In October 2022, the Governor and Mayor announced that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department (MTAPD) would surge officer presence on platforms while expanding capacity at the New York State Office of Mental Health to support unhoused individuals who are sheltering in the subway system and those who are suffering from severe mental illness. Following this, Governor Hochul has announced that teams deployed after October 2022 have helped more than 650 unhoused high-needs New Yorkers to connect with critical intervention services.

“My number one priority as Governor is keeping New Yorkers safe, whether on the streets, in their homes, in their schools, or on the subway, and we will do whatever it takes to make our subways safer for riders,” Governor Hochul said. “Our Cops, Cameras, and Care initiative has cracked down on subway crime, helped those in need and continues to attract riders back to the subway system. We have worked closely with the Mayor and the NYPD, and we will continue to do whatever is needed to make New Yorkers safe on the subway.” 

New York City Mayor, Eric Adams, said: “A year ago, Governor Hochul and I stood in the subways with a real plan to make sure that people were safe and felt safe on our subways. Now, crime is going down, ridership is going up and New Yorkers are feeling confident in their system. We have a long way to go, but this is the partnership that we need to improve the subway system that is the lifeblood of our city, and we’re going to continue to move in the right direction.”

MTA Chair and CEO, Janno Lieber, said: “Ridership [in January 2023] is up 35% over [2022], while crime is down 28%. Those are real positive metrics, but we’re not taking our foot off the gas anytime soon. I know that Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams are in it for the long haul, for the good of riders and all New Yorkers.”

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State Office of Mental Health Commissioner, Dr. Ann Sullivan, said: “We have made great progress providing support and services to people who are living with mental illness and experiencing homelessness in NYC. More than 650 individuals have been engaged with services by our Safe Options Support teams and are getting the help that they need to transition into more permanent housing. Governor Hochul is committed to providing the resources necessary to help every New Yorker, especially those who are most vulnerable, to get the treatment and services that they need.”

Significant decreases in subway crime    

Since the initiatives announced in October 2022, major crime in the subway system is down by 16%, compared to the same time period during the prior year.

Additionally, the crime rate on subways is returning to pre-pandemic levels: in 2019, the rate of crime was 1.5 crimes per million riders; in 2022, the rate of crime was 2.3 crimes per million riders; so far, in 2023, the ridership adjusted rate is only 1.7 crimes per million riders. Transit murders also decreased, from four to two.

Further, January 2023 has seen the lowest level of transit crime compared to any January since 1993, when this data was first collected. Transit shootings are down by 14%, and there has been a notable decrease in robberies, which are down by 30%. Overall, arrests have increased by 43.4% since October 2022, and Transit Adjudication Bureau summonses have increased by 84.8%.

Customers returning to the subway system   

On 27 December 2022, MTA announced that ridership had surpassed one billion, as riders continued to return to the subway. Through October 2022, subway ridership was up by 38.6% over the same period in 2021. The MTA customer satisfaction survey conducted in December 2022 also demonstrated an 18% increase in riders feeling ‘safer’ or ‘much safer’ on the trains or in the stations – the largest single-month increase seen since the start of the surveys in Spring 2022.

Unhoused individuals connected with critical intervention and mental health resources  

Governor Hochul is embracing a multifaceted approach to addressing the mental health crisis and its impact on public safety in New York City. This includes efforts to greatly expand the continuum of care, offer incentives to bolster the mental health care workforce and to coax healthcare facilities into bringing back in-patient psychiatric beds that were taken offline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are now 10 teams of specially trained mental health practitioners – known as Safe Options Support teams – working with emergency shelters, outreach providers and supportive housing facilitates in New York City to transition the estimated 3,900 individuals that are living on the street or in the subway system into a stable living environment. These teams have already enrolled 650 individuals into Critical Time Intervention services, an evidence-based practice that helps to connect vulnerable individuals to housing and services during difficult times of transition in their lives.

The state is also providing $10 million to establish two Transition to Home units in New York City to offer psychiatric center-based inpatient treatment for individuals with serious mental health issues who are experiencing homelessness. The first unit was established at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center in November 2022 and now offers 20 beds, with an additional five beds set to come online in the coming weeks, and a second 25-bed unit anticipated to come online sometime in Winter 2023.

As part of the Cops, Cameras, and Care initiative, Governor Hochul directed the establishment of a 60-bed transitional programme for individuals that need extra care between hospitalisation and housing. Utilising $7.2 million in state funding, the Community Residential Step-Down programmes will be established at four locations in New York City, and each include 15 units of transitional housing connected to wraparound, mobile services with other support necessary to help individuals transition into successful community living and permanent housing.

The state is conducting training for law enforcement and first responders on best practices for engaging individuals with serious mental illness who are experiencing homelessness. This training includes fundamental crisis intervention skills and the best practices for engaging the street population experiencing mental health illness. 

Governor Hochul also increased the Medicaid fee-for-service rates to bring more inpatient psychiatric beds back online. New York State has provided $27.5 million, which is expected to be matched by the federal government for a total of $55 million to increase these rates, which are retroactive to 1 April 2022.

Additionally, the state’s $9 million Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program is providing loan repayments of up to $120,000 for psychiatrists and up to $30,000 for psychiatric nurse practitioners over a three-year period. This programme is projected to serve roughly 180 psychiatrists and 180 psychiatric nurse practitioners.

In her State of the State address, Governor Hochul committed to:

  • Adding 1,000 inpatient psychiatric beds, replacing more than half of the beds that have been lost since 2014
  • Creating 3,500 new housing units for New Yorkers with mental illness
  • Expanding mental health services for school-aged children
  • Improving the admissions and discharge planning requirements for hospitals
  • Creating 50 new Critical Intervention Time Intervention Care Coordination’s Teams to provide wraparound services for discharged patients.

Additionally, Governor Hochul will advance legislation to close gaps in coverage for behavioural health services and prohibit insurers from denying necessary mental health services for both children and adults. These investments and initiatives will realign the state’s approach toward mental health aimed at transforming all parts of the mental health care continuum – from prevention to treatment to recovery.