Homeless advocates slammed New York City’s decision to send more than 600 police officers to monitor the subway system following a series of deadly stabbing attacks last weekend that left two homeless victims dead and four homeless victims injured, ABC News reported.
The Metropolitan Transportation Agency requested 1,000 officers for increased patrols, but Transit Chief Kathleen O’Reilly said 644 officers will patrol subway platforms, protect entryways and ride the subway for the “foreseeable future.”
O’Reilly said the law enforcement influx includes 331 Transit Bureau officers and 313 Patrol Bureau cops to be spread out across the subway system, particularly during rushes in the mornings and evenings.
The move was slammed by homeless community advocates who called the bolstered police presence “heavy-handed” and saying it won’t protect homeless individuals.
“Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo need to respond not with more stigmatization and callousness toward people without homes, or heavy-handed police removals, but with real and immediate access to housing for unsheltered New Yorkers,” Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless in New York, told ABC News.
“These devastating attacks are a reminder that failing to offer the dignity and safety of a real home during this historic pandemic is literally a matter of life and death,” she added.
A Salvation Army Greater New York Division spokesperson echoed Routhier, criticizing the increased police presence as “penalizing poverty.”
“The vast majority of unhoused people are peaceful and penalizing poverty will not solve the homeless crisis in New York City,” a Salvation Army spokesperson told ABC News.
The Salvation Army argued a better route would be to “expand safe, non-congregate housing for people experiencing homelessness” in order to “restore safety and dignity to all.”
O’Reilly said that the city’s public transportation system “remains one of the safest large transit systems in the world.”
“When a crime does occur, our officers move swiftly to make immediate arrests,” O’Reilly said.
Last week at the Christopher Street station in Manhattan, a man was stabbed on a subway train platform. In January, body camera video showed an individual attempting to push a woman in front of a moving train.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA closed subway stations overnight, preventing homeless people from seeking shelter in the stations throughout the winter.
WABC reported that 21-year-old Rigoberto Lopez, a reportedly homeless man, was charged with murdering two people on the subway last weekend.