What Would Make the Subway Feel Safer? Experts Have 5 Suggestions.

A string of frightening attacks in the subway amid a broader increase in crime in the system so far this year has put some New Yorkers on edge.

When Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed National Guard members and State Police troopers to the transit system this month, she said her goal was twofold: to fight crime and to make riders feel safe. The subway is crucial to New York’s vitality, and passengers’ needs are a top priority for her and other public officials as they navigate the city’s post-pandemic recovery.

But just days after the reinforcements arrived, a shooting on an A train in Brooklyn underscored how fragile any sense of security can be and undermined officials’ message, supported by data, that the subway is safe. It also stirred a dread familiar to many riders, who have witnessed some of the city’s biggest problems — untreated mental health issues, illegal guns, homelessness — being amplified in the confined spaces of platforms and trains.

Leaders in the fields of transportation, criminal justice and social services often disagree about the best way to make the subway safer, with some calling for more police and others suggesting a softer approach.

Here are five ideas that experts say could help ease riders fears about the subway:

Strengthen gun checks

Some experts believe more must be done to keep guns out of the system.

Rigorous and widespread bag checks, which the police already conduct at random, are an effective way to achieve that goal, said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, the interim dean at U.C.L.A.’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Professor Loukaitou-Sideris, who specializes in transit safety, said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that operates the subway, could consider searching riders at every station using metal detectors and X-ray machines. She said that although doing so might be difficult and expensive, the Shanghai Metro does it efficiently.

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