There were 56 cases of sleeping passengers getting pickpocketed in April, according to NYPD Transit Chief Joe Fox.

At an MTA board meeting yesterday, Fox said a 50-crime hike in major felony crimes last month compared with the prior year was due to the spike in grand larcenies targeting sleeping subway riders.

These crimes of opportunity made up more than a quarter of the 217 major felonies in the transit system in April, while in January they were 19% of total crime. "That's a number that's been increasing steadily," Fox said.

NYPD Transit deployed more police officers and extended patrols to tamp down on the spike in subway crime, leading to three arrests last week.

Kevin Morales, 23, of Brooklyn and 21-year-old John Hildalgo of Queens were arrested on Broadway and 32nd Street Thursday for allegedly swiping cellphones from unsuspecting train riders at 5 a.m. on a southbound N train.

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A witness on the train notified the conductor, who relayed the message to police, according to an NYPD spokeswoman. Morales, being held until his next court date, was allegedly holding a backpack with four phones, an Apple iPod, three watches and a bracelet. A search at Morales' Gravesend home turned up 16 cellphones, the NYPD alleged.

"He was arrested less than a month ago for the very same crime at the 8th Avenue station in Brooklyn," Fox said.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, a drunk man who fell asleep on a Q train from Times Square at 2 a.m., woke up at the Cortelyou Street station without his wallet and cellphone, according to the NYPD spokeswoman.

Mark Gilmore, 32, of the Bronx was arrested.

Legal Aid attorneys could not be reached.