Photo by Don Pollard/Office of Governor Hochul
New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Saturday, 22 October 2022 announced expanded initiatives to keep New York City subways safe and address transit crime. The initiatives include a significant investment from the State's public emergency fund and a commitment to work with the city on a dedicated revenue source to support additional police presence in the subway system. NYPD and MTA will surge officer presence on platforms by approximately 1,200 additional overtime officer shifts each day on the subway — equating to approximately 10,000 additional overtime patrol hours every day — as well as two new dedicated units at psychiatric centers to help provide those experiencing serious mental health illness with the assistance they need.
"My number one priority as Governor is keeping New Yorkers safe in the streets, in their homes, in their schools, and on the subway, and we will do whatever it takes to make our subways safer for riders," Governor Hochul said. "Our expanded subway safety strategy of Cops, Cameras, and Care will crack down on subway crime, help those experiencing homelessness get the support they need to get out of the system, and alleviate concerns of riders to ensure New Yorkers feel safer throughout the subway system. Building on our ongoing collaboration with the City, we will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Mayor and the NYPD to deliver the safety and security New Yorkers deserve."
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, "This effort will help with two things New Yorkers desperately want: The addition of hundreds of additional strategically deployed officers on our trains and help to those suffering from serious mental health illness so they can find a way out of the subway system. We must address both the perception and reality of safety, and the expanded partnership we are announcing today with Governor Hochul will do just that, while building off the successes of our Subway Safety Plan. The bottom line is that riders will see more officers in the system, and so will those thinking of breaking the law. On behalf of all New Yorkers, we're thankful for this state investment that will make our subways safer."
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Police Department and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) will specifically work together to strategically deploy more officers across the system and increase their presence on platforms and on trains, building on the progress made over the last eight months since Mayor Adams released his Subway Safety Plan.
The MTA Police are going to be deployed into the subway system at four major commuter railroad hubs — Penn Station, Grand Central Station, Atlantic Terminal, and Sutphin-Archer (Jamaica) Station. This action will result in freeing up roughly 100 NYPD officers for deployments at other priority transit locations on trains and in stations — allowing commuters and those attempting to commit crimes to see an omnipresence of officers in the transit system.
Further, the MTA will continue to install cameras in each subway car to enhance security coverage and increase rider confidence, as well as have train conductors announce to riders when they are entering a station with police officers present.
To continue to address the unhoused population sheltering in the subway system and those who are suffering from severe mental illness, as well as build on progress since Governor Hochul deployed Safe Options Support crisis intervention teams, Governor Hochul has directed the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to create two new, dedicated 25-bed units, for a total of 50 inpatient beds.
In addition, OMH will expand crisis intervention training for MTA Police, the NYPD, and EMS/EMT, teaching them best practices for engaging individuals experiencing homelessness and ensuring they are fully informed of the statutory authority for the transport of individuals in need of a psychiatric evaluation. These expanded initiatives build on ongoing collaboration between the State and City on subway safety and outreach to the population experiencing homelessness. Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams also pledged to explore strengthening and improving laws providing assistance to those suffering from serious mental health illness.
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, "Today's announcement is possible because of the partnership between City and State to assure the safety of our subway system. Subway ridership has surged since Labor Day, and we remain focused on growing rider confidence through increased deployment of uniformed officers, cameras installed in every subway car, and further progress on quality-of-life issues. The MTA is grateful to Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams for their leadership and commitment to the subways."
New York City Police Department Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell said, "The NYPD and the MTA are proud partners in the ongoing work to keep all of those who use our subway trains and stations safe. Utilizing seamless collaboration, police omnipresence, and proactive communications with the riding public, we will deepen our ability to ensure a safer transit system — and a safer city."
Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said,"With Governor Hochul's resolve to assist New York's most vulnerable individuals living with mental illness, OMH is launching two critical initiatives to assist New Yorkers who are experiencing homelessness. The Transition to Home Inpatient Units will provide individuals with recovery-oriented, person-centered care towards the goal of obtaining an enriched life in the community. Additionally, a new Community Residential Step-Down Program will be available to those who need more structure and support in reintegrating to the community. It will consist of semi-independent, short-term housing with intensive recovery services designed to teach the life skills needed to successfully live in a more independent setting. These new programs will benefit from the Safe Options Support Teams which have already been actively engaging homeless individuals living with mental illness."
Increased MTA Police and NYPD Officer Presence
The MTA Police Department and the NYPD will work together to strategically deploy more officers and increase their presence on platforms and trains, with the MTA Police taking primary responsibility for policing the subway stations adjacent and linked to the four major commuter rail hubs by deploying platoons of officers — providing a constant 24/7 presence — thereby allowing the NYPD to increase coverage at additional stations across the subway system. The MTA Police Department's coverage of 60 officers per day is the equivalent of 90 additional NYPD officers given the difference in length of shifts between the departments.
With this additional NYPD presence and the additional support, the NYPD will dramatically increase police presence in the transit system by approximately 1,200 overtime shifts every single day, or approximately 10,000 overtime hours. New Yorkers will see officers cover platforms on extended tours in at least 300 stations during peak hours. This increase in officers will also allow dedicated Transit officers to ride hundreds of additional trains per day during peak hours. There will also be a substantial increase of officers at turnstiles that will enforce the law and deter fare evasion. Combined, this omnipresence of officers on the subways will help increase public safety and deter those from considering crimes.
MTA will also place security guards (Gate Guards) at certain subway stations in order to increase security presence, to function as "eyes and ears" for law enforcement, and to deter fare evasion.
New OMH Transition to Home Units
Governor Hochul directed OMH to launch two new Transition to Home Units (THU), a new treatment program for street and subway patients experiencing homelessness with severe mental illnesses and poor community tenure who would benefit from recovery-oriented, person-centered care at OMH's center of excellence for psychopharmacological care.
This new program will include two new 25-bed inpatient units, with the first one launching at Manhattan Psychiatric Center (MPC) by November 1. OMH is evaluating capacity at downstate psychiatric hospitals and will open a second unit by early next year. Both units will serve individuals aged 18 years or older with severe mental health illnesses who are experiencing homelessness, and MPC will partner with referring hospitals to provide acceptance for patients who need to be medically stabilized. The THUs will be accepting referrals from a limited number of New York City Hospitals and their Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Programs (CPEP) and expand the number of referring facilities.
The THUs will be staffed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, and other clinical and non-clinical personnel and provide recovery-focused treatment. The programmatic model for the THUs will include an intensive focus on life management skills that will help facilitate discharge to the community, assist those with gaining functional skills, and work with agencies within and outside of OMH to enhance engagement in mental health care.
The transition of care planning process for THU patients to return to the community will include an individualized assessment of services needed to foster stability in the community. An array of services will be available to support successful community integration.
As part of this new initiative, OMH will develop a Community Residential Step-Down Program to provide a transitional space for people who are being discharged directly from the THUs. This short-term residential program will include 15 units across four locations for a total of 60 transitional beds and provide service recipients with the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to move to a more independent housing setting. Individuals will also be supported in procuring benefits to ensure long-term success.
Individuals in the step-down program will be connected to Safe Options Support, Assertive Community Treatment, and Intensive Mobile Treatment teams to support their transition back to the community and to permanent supportive housing within 120 days or less.
Enhanced Training for Law Enforcement and First Responders
OMH offers training to law enforcement and first responders in the fundamental crisis intervention skills training for law enforcement. The State will expand this training to inform MTA Police, NYPD, and EMS/EMT on the statutory authority for the transport of individuals in need of a psychiatric evaluation at hospitals and CPEPs. This training will also incorporate best practices for engaging the street population experiencing mental health illness.
Conductor Announcements of Police Presence
Onboard subway announcements are another tool the MTA and NYPD are using to collaboratively deter crime and assist customers in need of law enforcement. To increase public awareness of the availability of police — when present in stations and on platforms — officers will contact train conductors to announce their presence.
Subway Camera Installation
Cameras within the MTA system have proven invaluable in identifying the perpetrators of crimes and bring them to justice. To this end, as recently announced by Governor Hochul, the MTA is expanding camera coverage to the inside of over 6,500 subway cars, which will include installation of cameras in subway cars at a rate of 750 cameras per month, following the completion of a procurement process, until the entire subway car fleet is camera-equipped in late 2024. Ahead of that, 100 cameras currently on hand will be installed in the coming days across subway cars. The MTA and the NYPD continue to work hand-in-hand to ensure immediate access to cameras in the subway system.
Safe Options Support Teams
Earlier this year, Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams announced that the OMH would launch Safe Options Support (SOS) Teams and deploy them in New York City. SOS teams are comprised of trained mental health professionals who coordinate with New York City-run outreach teams to engage with and assist individuals suffering from chronic street homelessness. The teams connect individuals to critical supportive services and help secure placement in emergency or supportive housing programs. Since beginning work in April, the teams have enrolled 410 individuals into such services.