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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

After another subway shooting, New York wrestles with question of safety

Members of the State Police and National Guard stand by as the Metropolitan Transit Authority police search bags at a security checkpoint at Penn Station in New York, on March 7, 2024. (Adam Gray/The New York Times)

By Christopher Maage

The subway crime that Jimmy Sumampow had been hearing about in recent years — as well as his own experience — had already led him to make plans to leave New York City. Then, on Friday, he saw a video online of the shooting on an A train last week.

“I’m scared,” said Sumampow, 46, after seeing the video. Sumampow lives in Elmhurst, Queens, but plans to board an Amtrak train on Monday for Florida, where he has a new job and an apartment lined up. “I feel I should move out for a while and see if New York takes action and gets better,” he said.

For Elise Anderson, however, the shooting did not raise her level of concern.

“I wouldn’t say I’m any more scared,” Anderson, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident, said as she waited at the Port Authority Bus Terminal subway station Friday for a downtown A train. “I think we’re in one of the safest cities in the world.”

In interviews across the city this past week, New Yorkers wrestled with a question that cut to the core of the city’s identity: Is the subway system safe? Subway crime data in recent years shows a muddled picture, and just as they have in surveys of riders and polls of residents, New Yorkers’ opinions diverge.

But barely more than a week after Gov. Kathy Hochul sent the National Guard and state police into the subway to increase security and help ease New Yorkers’ fears, the shooting seemed to underscore the limits of law enforcement’s ability to improve safety underground.

The episode took place at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station, where the Police Department maintains an outpost, Transit District 30, that is regularly staffed by officers. Moments before the shooting, two additional officers entered the station to inspect the platforms and train cars, Kaz Daughtry, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner of operations, said at a news conference Friday.

If protections such as those, plus the 1,000 National Guard soldiers and other law enforcement personnel promised by Hochul, are not enough to prevent one of the subway’s most gruesome confrontations in recent memory, what is?

“They could send the Army into the subway — I think it’s still going to get worse,” Antonio Balaguacha, 56, said Friday as he waited on a subway platform in Sunnyside, Queens, for a Manhattan-bound 7 train.

Efforts by city and state officials in recent days to improve safety have drawn a wide range of opinions from New Yorkers who rely on the subway. Some riders felt comforted by the presence of the Guard soldiers.

“I haven’t seen the National Guard yet, but I don’t think I would feel safer in their presence,” Patrick Bovie, 27, said Friday as he waited for a G train in Brooklyn.

“I feel better seeing them here,” Anna Puello, a 47-year-old resident of upper Manhattan, said Friday.

Recent surveys by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority show that a significant percentage of riders, though not a majority, do not feel safe on the subway, with many citing erratic behavior by other passengers among their top concerns.

The data on subway crime paints a more nuanced picture. Annual figures from recent years show that major crime on the subway decreased slightly in 2023 compared with the year before, even as ridership rose.

Although the total number of major crimes was similar in 2023 to the years before the pandemic, the system has still regained only about 70% of its average daily ridership, suggesting

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