New York City

More Homeless Outreach for City Subways, NYPD to ‘Surge' Cops as Well

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Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams are joining forces to increase homelessness outreach on New York City's subways, addressing a quality-of-life issue core to Adams' push to get workers back to offices in the city.

The plan to increase the outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness comes a day after Hochul gave her first State of the State address. Part of her address detailed how she plans to create groups of mental health professionals and social workers to help tackle the homelessness crisis in the state.

However, the truth is that outreach has already increased in recent years, although some unsheltered individuals refuse the help. Ultimately, because they are not considered an immediate danger to themselves or others, under state law, they cannot be forced off the streets or the trains. 

"This truly is a humanitarian crisis," Hochul said at a news conference with Adams Thursday.

The new state-funded "Safe Options Support Teams," of 8-10 people each, will include medical professionals, social workers and outreach workers. Hochul said the state would issue a Request for Proposal to hire and staff up the initial five or so teams.

Alongside that effort, Adams said cops on patrol would have additional responsibilities to go into the subway system and do visual inspections to make sure there are no public safety issues -- but leave the outreach to the SOS Teams.

"We need to be clear here -- we will not allow our police officers to have unnecessary engagement with homeless individuals, and those petty issues that will cause negative encounters with police officers and our riders," Adams said.

In a separate release, the NYPD said the plan to "surge" officers into the subway system would lead to hundreds of additional officers being present.

The idea to enhance patrols on the subway system and to increase homelessness outreach, could be seen as a way to address the widespread perception of a crime-riddled transit system and individuals who are experiencing homelessness on the subways.

Over the past months, as subway ridership increased, so did crimes throughout the transit system.

In October, the MTA said that overall crimes on New York City's subways are at 25-year low. But as more people return to public transit, police say the number of thefts is increasing.

NYPD data from that time showed thefts on the subways jumped by 50% in September. Robberies also increased but the number of assaults remained the same. Subway grand larcenies went from 64 in August to 96 in September, according to the NYPD statistics.

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