MTA Considers Repeat Robber Subway Ban Amid Crime Spike

Those who steal repeatedly from riders would be prohibited from using MetroCards.

By Andrew Siff
|  Tuesday, Mar 27, 2012  |  Updated 6:50 AM EDT
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Repeat robbers who prey on subway riders could be banned from public transit under a proposal the MTA is considering amid a crime spike underground. Riders with electronic devices are presenting attractive targets to thieves, MTA President Thomas Prendergast says. Andrew Siff reports.

NBC New York

Repeat robbers who prey on subway riders could be banned from public transit under a proposal the MTA is considering amid a crime spike underground. Riders with electronic devices are presenting attractive targets to thieves, MTA President Thomas Prendergast says. Andrew Siff reports.

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Repeat robbers who prey on subway riders could be banned from public transit under a proposal the MTA is considering amid a crime spike underground.

The idea is based on the same concept as banning shoplifters from stores where they've been arrested. MTA officials wonder if a similar strategy could work on the subways, as they tackle an underground crime wave involving mostly thefts of cellphones, iPads and other high-tech toys.

Officials said there were 91 grand larcenies underground in February 2011 and 126 last month -- an increase of 39 percent.

In some cases, repeat offenders use razor blades to slice through the pockets of unsuspecting riders, officials said. And they often prey on drowsy-looking passengers.

Riders applauded the idea of a robber MetroCard ban but were skeptical it could be enforced.

"A little difficult to accomplish," said Erica Orama, who clutched a smartphone as she waited for a downtown express train at 72nd Street on Monday. "It would be great but I highly doubt it's possible."

MTA investigators said some repeat thieves have robbed upwards of 25 passengers each.

So in theory, banning them would make the entire system safer, said regular rider Darrell Dantignac.

"If it's unsafe for them to go to work and do their travels that makes it harder for them to live and survive in the city," he said. "So I think I could kind of agree with that."

MTA officials said they're working with the NYPD to look into the idea, and MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said he would speak with all five borough district attorneys to see if a transit ban for repeat offenders is possible.

Officials have not explained how it would be enforced.

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