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Hochul’s plan to divert MTA police to subways faces scrutiny from Long Island

Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams announce expanded initiatives to keep New York City subways safe and address transit crime.
Don Pollard
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams announce expanded initiatives to keep New York City subways safe and address transit crime.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to have police expand their patrols to subway stations might be derailed by officer shortages in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Hochul joined New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Saturday to announce that MTA police will be deployed to subway transfers at Jamaica, Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal and Grand Central stations.

“The use of the MTA [police department] has been largely put into locations where they already have a presence at either the Penn Station, Long Island Rail Road platforms — they're on the Metro-North platforms — already,” MTA chief safety officer Patrick Warren said Monday. “So, it is a natural extension to be able to use that expertise from those locations and extend that into the subway systems at those platforms simultaneously."

The announcement faced criticism on Monday from MTA board member David Mack, of Nassau County, and others about the logistics of the plan. Mack said police officers should not be diverted from the Long Island Rail Road.

“It’s a disgrace that we have to take MTA police men — men and women — and put them on transit and the subway. What about protecting our railroads?” Mack asked.

“We've received an agreement from the state police to come in and backfill some of the missions that the MTA police were doing so that we do not lose any security for the Long Island Rail Road or the Metro-North police,” Warren rerouted.

Last month, the MTA announced the Metro-North and LIRR would have a dedicated unit of police officers to ride the commuter rail system to address growing safety concerns.

Major crime is up over 70% through August compared to the same period last year. Last month, there were 16 felonies reported in the entire system. More than half of those were grand larcenies, and four assaults, including an MTA employee.

MTA Police Chief John Mueller said the department will consider plans to keep on track the launch of a dedicated police unit that will ride the commuter rail system starting in January.

“A lot of it is going to be overtime to start with, so that we don’t compromise what we’re doing on the community rail, which we know is our core business,” Mueller said. “We’re still starting to build out the plan to make sure we have everything covered.”

Hochul’s plan is to ramp up police enforcement of the subways by adding 1,200 police shifts a day to the system.

In January, around 60 existing police officers would be deployed to the commuter rail system, following routes to stations with the most ridership. “We should not be in the subways. We should be on our stations,” Mack said.”

The MTA police force has about 1,100 officers — which has doubled in size since 2019. These officers are fed from neighboring departments and academies, including New York City, and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“The MTA is paying the New York City Police Department to protect the transit. That's the agreement,” Mack said. “But when we're taking away men and women from Metro-North, Grand Central, and their other duties on Long Island, it's going to hurt us.”

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.