NYC Policing

Dear Governor Hochul: Increased Subway Surveillance Does Not Equal Public Safety

By Sage Overskei North on April, 9 2024

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Governor Hochul announced a new initiative to create a police state in NYC subways in the name of public safety that utilizes racist practices and would discriminate against riders with a conviction history. The Five-Point Plan directed over 700 National Guard members and 250 New York State Police and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police into stations to deter crime and conduct random bag searches. Such "random" bag searches are the modern-day embodiment of stop-and-frisk tactics, resulting in the targeting of Black and Brown train riders and the creation of a more hostile environment for historically marginalized groups. 

In mirroring stop-and-frisk through random bag searches, law enforcement is instilling terror in subway riders that go beyond harassment. The "chilling effect" is a phenomenon that arises when individuals or groups modify their behavior due to a fear of the consequences that may result if that behavior is observed. Some individuals may choose to leave certain items out of their bags, leave their bags at home, or avoid subways overall in fear of being stopped. 

This type of police surveillance disproportionately targets Black and Latinx people, despite arguments from supporters focusing on its "crime reduction effectiveness." The NYPD does not keep demographic data of the people stopped for random bag checks since a judge ruled stop-and-frisk practices were unconstitutional in 2013. Yet, data shows present-day policies use the same racist policing under a different name. 

In 2023, Black people made up 60.24% of NYPD stops compared to their white counterparts (5.71%). Latinx people comprised 31.31% of police stops in the city, signaling racist practices that will continue through initiatives like Governor Hochul's plan that leaves the most marginalized at risk of arrest or worse. 

A police state does not address the root causes of crime and only perpetuates harm. As the nation's first alternative-to-incarceration and victim service provider that addresses violent felonies in adult courts, we oppose Governor Hochul's Five-Point Plan, including a bill to pan individuals convicted of assault within the subway system. More surveillance and suppressing access to affordable public transit based on conviction history invests in inequities instead of communities. 

Officials should evaluate why pouring more money into police isn't reducing crime instead of recommitting to the same practices that will never achieve true public safety. NYPD overtime pay for subway patrolling increased from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million in 2023. After expanding this budget, adding hundreds of law enforcement to the subways, and having 15,000 cameras in the subway systems, felony assaults on subways managed to triple since 2022. Creating a police state and enforcing stop-and-frisk-like laws has not reduced crime but instead continued to further racial disparities in stops and arrests while also adding to the issues of overcrowded correctional facilities and community-police relations. 

Our question remains: When will state and city leaders admit that policing does not increase public safety and invest in solutions like affordable housing, mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and support for survivors, all of which have proven to keep New Yorkers safe? 

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