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Subways safer, but fear lingers


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Subways safer, but fear lingers



Tuesday, February 26th 2008



Police inspect subway cars at Dyre Ave. stop in August after three people were

shot, 1 fatally.


According to official Police Department stats obtained by the Bronx Boro News, there were 21% more arrests on Bronx subways last year, up from 4,657 in 2006 to 5,647 in 2007.


The bulk of them were for fare jumpers and disorderly riders, who police say are largely responsible for other transit crimes.


By targeting people who break lesser rules, police say they often prevent more serious crimes from being committed in the system.


"A person walking through the subway cars - those are your criminals," said a law enforcement official familiar with the numbers. "I can't tell you how many crime reports say 'person walked through the subway car and sat down next to the victim and then robbed them.' There was a big push in 2007 to get those people."


Police also stepped up efforts to catch unruly groups of people and turnstile jumpers, nabbing 3,905 fare jumpers in 2007 compared with 3,365 in 2006.


"You try to get your people at the right places and the right times, but it is hard to pick out a single person who is about to commit a crime," said the source. "What you can do something about are these rowdy groups. They stand out. Even having an officer just walk up and talk to them can help."


Police Transit Bureau Chief James Hall said stopping riders from riding or walking between cars has led to more arrests of passengers bringing loaded guns, knives and drugs into the transit system citywide.


Last year, 136 people were arrested with cutting instruments, compared with 42 in 2006. And 202 people were arrested with narcotics, compared with 45 the year before.


Possibly as a result, there were 22% fewer complaints of robberies and 14% fewer complaints of grand larceny.


However, despite the statistical showing, old perceptions of subway safety - or the lack of it - continue to run deep in the borough.


"I don't care about the stats, they need to do something bigger, some soul- searching," said Ray Jay, 48, a bouncer from Pelham Parkway, who said he has witnessed pickpocketing and many groups of teenagers looking for victims during his rides.


"People are still getting robbed. We need more of a police presence. How are you going to police a whole line with just a few people?"


Jean Barker, 66, a Brooklyn resident who works as a home health care aide in the Bronx, said officers are rarely there when rowdy riders have taken over her subway car.


"The young people, they are running, cursing, screaming. The police need to be there to see this behavior," Barker said.


"A lot of weird things are going on that the police aren't getting to."


Elliot Sander, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, believes that the 5 million people who ride the subway daily - the highest weekday average since 1951 - are a clear sign of the system's improvement.


"The NYPD has done an extraordinary job keeping our customers safe," he said.


"Combined with tens of billions invested in the system, low crime has helped increase ridership 40% in a decade."


Subway crime in the Bronx and citywide is at historic lows, approaching rates not seen in 40 years or more. The average of 6.46 felonies reported per day systemwide compares to 49 per day in 1990 and 6.7 in 1969.


Kasheme James, 43, a custodian who has been riding the subway his entire life, agreed.


"There is less graffiti, less crime, less pickpocketing, no chain snatching," James said. "Yes, change has happened."

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