Some of the best movies in history were set in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s when crime was at its worst. Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy, Dog Day Afternoon – where would Scorcese be without the grit and glamour of New York City?
Up through 1990, crime ruled the subways. People were afraid to ride it and avoided it at night. After increased police presence and stricter laws, subway crime hit its lowest point in 2009. But since then, it’s started to increase, although not nearly to the levels of before.
In January, a rider who was sleeping was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver. In December, a police officer was forced to defend himself from five homeless men who attacked him on a platform.
This month, in Queens, a man was shot – the first murder in six months. Transit crimes ticked up 3.8 percent in the last year, even as violent crimes like murder and rape continue to decrease in the metro area. But subway authorities continue to insist that the system is generally safe, particularly in light of the fact that use of the subway has grown astronomically since 1990.
Then, there were about one billion annual rides. In 2017, there were over 1.7 billion recorded. There were also about 20 murders on average each year. In 2018, there was one and in 2017, there were none.
Still, some police are nervous about what the statistics could mean. The former police commissioner, William J. Bratton, has suggested that the most violent years of New York grew out of crime that began in the subways and that the conditions are ripe for the city to return to its grittier decades.
Compounding the problem is the city’s growing homeless population, of whom many have mental health problems. Many of these individuals end up in the subway, some of whom are agitated and threaten or yell at passengers. Many riders have expressed concerns and fear about increasing criminal incidents. They have requested more officers to patrol the areas, and anecdotes about minor assaults and thefts are everywhere.
However, some stations are more dangerous than others, according to some reports. Atlantic Ave-Barclays was the most dangerous station in 2017. There were 334 crimes reported that occurred within a 100-foot radius of the 2, 3, 4, and 5 lines at the stop; however, no crimes were reported to have actually occurred within the station itself.
For that, you’ll need to visit 42nd St – Port Authority Bus Terminal, where 275 crimes occurred inside the station itself. Over in the Bronx, the 3rd Ave – 149th station saw 207 crimes occurring within the station. And of course, as one of the busiest stations in the city, it should come as no surprise that Times Square Station, 42nd St at Seventh Avenue is also one with a high crime rate.
Most of these crimes consisted of grand larceny and criminal mischief, although assault and harassment were also fairly regularly reported.
For now, police are working on new techniques, including working closely with subway staff and workers to build relationships. Riders, for their part, try to avoid taking the subway alone or late at night. Hopefully, the city does not return to the dark times of the 1970s and 1980s – even if it will mean a new Renaissance in film.