Will New Yorkers Ever Feel Safe in a Subway Station?
In New York, a subway train is perceived as a fast, affordable, and convenient transportation used daily by millions of citizens. Yet, the Brooklyn subway shooting raised considerable doubts about its safety. 23 people were injured, and a criminal managed to escape from the scene despite the increased NYPD presence at all the stations.
On the busy Tuesday morning of April 12, subway stations were casually crowded with people rushing to get to their destinations. Then, a sudden smoke burst at the N train, followed by 33 shots, leaving 23 people injured. A man who detonated grenades and fired a 9mm Glock pistol managed to leave the station unnoticed.
Frank James, a 62-year-old man with a significant criminal history, left them his credit card and van keys, helping the investigators to track him. It is difficult to imagine how much time NYPD would spend searching if it took them more than 24 hours with such considerable clues in use. James had been arrested in New York nine times and twice charged in New Jersey for making terroristic threats.
The Brooklyn subway shooting reminded New Yorkers that their safety can still be easily disrupted and raised several crucial questions regardless of the stations’ security. How could a man enter a train with a gas mask, grenades, and a gun unnoticed by any security worker? Why could he escape from the scene so easily? What measures must be taken immediately to prevent such accidents?
The stream of criticism on social media revealed that citizens have concerns about the NYPD work, which has recently received additional funding from taxpayers’ money, and an increased presence in public places. The Citylimits reporter emphasized that the extra thousand officers assigned to duty at subway stations are the largest law enforcement presence in the Transit Bureau history. Yet, the Brooklyn subway shooting was still not prevented, people were injured, and a criminal could exit the station unnoticed.
The city administration developed emergency measures to enforce station security in response to the event. Mayor Adams stated that metal detectors are to be used in subways, and the public safety department is to select the type of devices and police workers responsible for monitoring them. Clearly, increased law enforcement presence and detectors’ work must be combined with better CCTV cameras and a more consistent security system.
Another aspect of decreasing a shooting probability is to consider the mental health conditions of criminals, as they often display deviant behaviors long before becoming violent. The city administration addressed it by pointing out that since the healthcare system is less overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can now allocate more sources to psychiatric treatment. These initiatives are expected to be more efficient than giving more funds and power to the NYPD.
The police presence increase is not worth the investment because most of them have no specific instructions regarding checking suspicious citizens or addressing the safety risks at stations. Furthermore, the Brooklyn subway shooting displayed the inefficiency of this crowd in police uniforms. Not only did the criminal manage to bring a weapon, smoke grenades, and fireworks to a train, but he also showed that criminals are not afraid of law enforcement guarding the subways.
An important detail about law enforcement’s increase is that when a person sees a group of officers, they suspect that a criminal is nearby and feel rather anxious than safe. Moreover, racial profiling, overuse of power, and oppressions are the inevitable outcome of the police expanse.
The city needs to develop complex strategies to increase its safety by simultaneously addressing the causes and consequences of crimes. Moreover, stations’ cameras and surveillance systems are known to not work to their fullest, and the administration must fix them. Although law enforcement-related updates are prevalent, communities and civic organizations can also impact the problem.
Social services can also participate by providing people in need with additional support to prevent them from committing crimes. Such programs’ implementation is the most peaceful solution, which, combined with psychiatric healthcare assistance and police work, can make all of New York’s districts safe. However, the scope of issues is too broad to eliminate, and even a well-financed services structure will need years to make an impact. The risks are too high to give them that much time, and it explains why the New York administration preferred to use quick and actionable measures.
As always happens after a mass crime, the city’s police services and the government will prioritize improving the weak points the accident sheds light on. Indeed, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber mentioned that Adams aims to make subway station safety the most important problem to address during his mayoralty.
Do such promises make New Yorkers feel less anxious about the risk they put themselves into when they enter a subway station? Will the fear that has disrupted the citizens’ life since the terrible April 12 morning be cured by policymakers’ initiatives? Let’s hope it will.
CBS New York (2022). Mayor Eric Adams unveils ‘Omnipresence’ police plan to get homeless off the subways. Web.
Cruz, D. (2022). Mayor moving ahead on metal detectors in subway system. Gothamist. Web.
The New York Times. (2022). What we know about the Brooklyn subway shooting. Web.
Salim, A. (2022). Opinion: Hyper-policing is the wrong response to Brooklyn subway attack. Citylimits. Web.
Stark-Miller, E. (2022). Mayor Adams honors MTA heros on frontlines of subway shooting. AMNY. Web.
Vargas, R. A. (2022). Mayor calls for more psychiatric services after Brooklyn subway shooting. The Guardian. Web.