New Yorkers are reluctant to hire the National Guard to prevent subway crime

  • By Kayla Epstein
  • BBC News, New York

image source, AFP via Getty Images

image caption,

National Guard members stand watch at Penn Station in New York City.

New York City subway riders had a mixed reaction to Gov. Cathy Hochlin's deployment of National Guard troops to protect the system.

Some passengers told the BBC the deployment was a good idea. Others expressed concern that it could lead to racial profiling.

Troops began working on the largest stations on Wednesday.

The governor said he was trying “to rid our subways of people who commit crimes and protect all New Yorkers.”

In his remarks on Wednesday, the governor fueled the headlines of violent attacks. There have been three murders since January.

“These brazen, brutal attacks on our subway system will not be tolerated,” he said.

The overall picture of crime in New York's transportation system is complex.

Last year, overall crime fell by 3% from 2022. The New York Times reports. But major crimes are up 13% so far this year.

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Police search bags at a New York City subway station.

Under a program launched after the 11 September 2001 attacks, the National Guard already patrols major transit hubs such as Port Authority Terminal and Grand Central Station.

Ms. Hochul's plan gives 750 guards extra work to monitor the subway's key entry points.

Another 250 people are engaged in security work. The governor did not say how long the measures would last.

But there are skeptics of his plan — including the Raiders.

“I'm not thrilled,” said Matt Craig, 71, as he prepared to enter Fulton Street Station. “I don't like the military running in the subways, I don't think we need them. The police are fine.”

A Brooklyn resident and daily commuter, Ms. Hochul, a Democrat, said she thought the plan was being implemented for “political purposes.”

Republicans have repeatedly highlighted crime as an issue during elections.

image source, Adam Gray/Getty Images

image caption,

New York Gov. Cathy Hochul announced that the National Guard will stand watch in the subways

Criminal justice experts told the BBC that Ms Hochlin's plan would not address the main causes of subway disruptions and could raise constitutional issues.

“A mental health crisis and a homelessness crisis are treated like a crime crisis,” said Jeffrey Fagan, a crime, policing and public safety expert at Columbia University.

“There's crime in the subway, and it's not at epidemic proportions.”

As they sped through some of New York's busiest subway stations, some commuters told the BBC they welcomed the presence of the National Guard, while saying they had not personally experienced crime in the system.

“I think it's a great idea,” said Lila, a 70-year-old woman who asked the BBC to use only her first name. “Too much crime. Too many crazies on the streets.”

David Ferber, 81, told the BBC at Union Square station: “I hate the idea of ​​militarizing civilian objects.

“But I think seeing the police or the National Guard around, people in uniform, will deter people from doing bad things that get publicity.”

Ms. Hochul's announcement that the National Guard will search bags has echoes of a policing practice known as stop-and-frisk, which has been found to disproportionately target minorities, police reform advocates said.

The stop-and-frisk “will ruffle some feathers a little bit because I'm a black male, and I know people of color feel one way about it,” said Aaron Hayes, 26.

“We live in New York, which is a melting pot of different cultures,” she said.

Mr Hayes wanted to wait and see if National Guard members on the subway would improve the daily commute for riders like him.

“It will certainly have an impact,” Mr Hayes said. “Safe? I don't know.”

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