Subway riders will soon see more cops in stations and on trains. But they won't be wearing NYPD blue. They'll be in MTA Police uniforms.
The transit agency is hiring 500 people for its police force, almost doubling its size to 1,283, and expanding their mission to include the subways, a system beyond their traditional turf of the Long Island and Metro North rail roads, and the Staten Island Railway.
NYPD figures show that serious crime in the subway is down another 2.4 percent this year, to barely six felonies every 24 hours across the entire system.
But there has been an uptick in assaults on transit workers, angering their union. And with the Manhattan district attorney no longer prosecuting many turnstile jumpers, fare beating continues to rise, costing more than $200 million a year.
"These additional police officers will enable us to continue to focus on getting the homeless the help that they need, in conjunction with the city, they will help us in terms of fare evasion and they'll also help us in terms of making sure that our staffs are properly protected," said Transit President Andy Byford.
Some transit advocates charge the extra officers are a waste of money.
"The statistics show there's no rise in crime on the subway, so we don’t know why the rise in law enforcement. And fare evasion has been used repeatedly as a distraction to blame riders for the ills of the transit system,” said Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance.
2,700 city police officers already are assigned to the transit system.
Normally, the MTA would work with the NYPD to beef up enforcement. But the agency says the new hires will help NYPD officers deal with fare evasion and the homeless.
Governor Cuomo who oversees the MTA has been demanding more forceful action against both problems.
Some riders say they welcome the coming blue wave.
"The trains are dirtier than they've ever been and there's mentally ill people all over. So they can use 1,000 new cops,” said one commuter.
The MTA insists it is still calculating the cost of the new officers but at a starting salary of $41,000, the hiring spree would cost $20.5 million a year, before benefits, training and equipment. The MTA says Manhattan District Attorney's Office will provide $40 million over four years to help foot the bill, and that a reduction in farebeating will help, too.