The MTA police presence will be boosted on LIRR trains...

The MTA police presence will be boosted on LIRR trains beginning in January. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The MTA will deploy a dedicated unit of police officers to ride on LIRR trains in response to growing safety concerns among Long Island Rail Road riders and employees, the department’s top cop said Monday.

The “train patrol unit” will include about 60 officers “dedicated exclusively” to riding LIRR and Metro-North trains, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Commissioner John Mueller announced at a meeting of the MTA Board. The unit, made up of existing staff, is expected to begin its work in January.

“We've heard what [the public has] been asking for, which is a train patrol, and a stronger and more robust presence. So that's what this does,” said Mueller, acknowledging the LIRR’s continued efforts to attract riders that it lost during the pandemic. Weekday ridership is approximately 70% of pre-COVID levels. “It’s going to be an entire package of visibility and addressing quality of life.”

Major crimes on the LIRR were up by 73% through August, from 45 crimes in the first eight months of 2021 to 78 during the same period this year. The MTA defines major crimes as murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto.

Mueller said the officers will begin their days at 5 a.m. at stations on Long Island, ride the train into New York City terminals, and then make the return trip back east during the evening rush hour. Officers will board trains at opposite ends of a station platform, and then work their way to the middle of a train, along the way having “a lot of interaction with riders,” Mueller said. Canine and special operations personnel will also be deployed at station platforms as necessary.

Using ridership data and information from railroad managers and MTA police commanding officers throughout the LIRR’s territory, the units will be deployed on branches where they can make “the greatest impact,” according to a presentation Mueller gave.

“We’re basically going to be following the ridership in most cases,” Mueller said.

The MTA Police force, which numbers about 1,100 officers, stepped up patrols of LIRR trains earlier this year, targeting trains and stations with increased crime. But the creation of a dedicated train patrol unit is a departure from the usual deployment strategy of MTA Police, which is typically most visible at busier transit hubs, like Penn Station and Jamaica.

Michael O’Meara, president of the MTA Police Benevolent Association, said the new patrols are made possible by the hiring of 500 additional MTA Police officers since 2019. Many of those cops had been initially intended to help patrol New York City subways, which are typically the purview of NYPD. O’Meara credited Mueller, who was hired in June, for listening to the concerns of railroad employees and passengers.

“He’s bringing a level of common sense to the MTA Police that we didn’t have before,” O’Meara said. “These arguments have been here forever, and they had been falling on deaf ears.”

An MTA spokesman said the creation of the new unit will be “cost neutral” to the department, because it entails reallocating existing cops.

O’Meara said he believes the move was a response to a drive from LIRR union leaders concerned about growing aggression toward train crews. MTA Board member Vincent Tessitore Jr., who represents LIRR union workers, said the spike in crime against train crew members is not fully captured in police statistics because some incidents are not considered felony assault. They include “verbal abuse” and riders “trapping our crews into train cabs.” 

“[This] is something I’ve been asking for years … and that’s dedicated train patrols to ride our trains and be visible and to be there to deter crime,” Tessitore said.

MTA chairman Janno Lieber has suggested that riders' perception about increasingly unsafe conditions on trains and at stations may be a key reason why some commuters who stopped riding transit during the pandemic have not returned. 

That assessment appeared to be borne out in the findings of the LIRR’s latest customer satisfaction survey, released Monday. In the survey, which was taken by 22,000 current and lapsed riders, the LIRR got some of its lowest marks on issues relating to safety, crime and quality of life. 

They included a 51% satisfaction rating for “personal security at destination” and 32% for homelessness at destination stations. However, more than 75% of respondents reported being satisfied with their personal security at their home station and on board trains.

LIRR acting chief customer officer Shanifah Rieara said she believed the new police initiative “will definitely speak to a lot of these customer concerns.”

Overall, the LIRR reported a customer satisfaction score of 81% — two percentage points higher than when it last surveyed customers in the fall of 2021.

The MTA will deploy a dedicated unit of police officers to ride on LIRR trains in response to growing safety concerns among Long Island Rail Road riders and employees, the department’s top cop said Monday.

The “train patrol unit” will include about 60 officers “dedicated exclusively” to riding LIRR and Metro-North trains, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Commissioner John Mueller announced at a meeting of the MTA Board. The unit, made up of existing staff, is expected to begin its work in January.

“We've heard what [the public has] been asking for, which is a train patrol, and a stronger and more robust presence. So that's what this does,” said Mueller, acknowledging the LIRR’s continued efforts to attract riders that it lost during the pandemic. Weekday ridership is approximately 70% of pre-COVID levels. “It’s going to be an entire package of visibility and addressing quality of life.”

Major crimes on the LIRR were up by 73% through August, from 45 crimes in the first eight months of 2021 to 78 during the same period this year. The MTA defines major crimes as murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto.

WHAT TO KNOW:

  • The MTA Police will have a dedicated unit of about 60 officers to patrol trains on the LIRR and Metro-North starting in January.
  • Working in pairs, the officers will board trains from opposite ends at Long Island stations starting around 5 a.m., ride into western terminals, and then ride back in the evening.
  • The announcement comes as major crimes on the LIRR were up 73% this year through August compared to the same period in 2021.

Mueller said the officers will begin their days at 5 a.m. at stations on Long Island, ride the train into New York City terminals, and then make the return trip back east during the evening rush hour. Officers will board trains at opposite ends of a station platform, and then work their way to the middle of a train, along the way having “a lot of interaction with riders,” Mueller said. Canine and special operations personnel will also be deployed at station platforms as necessary.

Using ridership data and information from railroad managers and MTA police commanding officers throughout the LIRR’s territory, the units will be deployed on branches where they can make “the greatest impact,” according to a presentation Mueller gave.

“We’re basically going to be following the ridership in most cases,” Mueller said.

The MTA Police force, which numbers about 1,100 officers, stepped up patrols of LIRR trains earlier this year, targeting trains and stations with increased crime. But the creation of a dedicated train patrol unit is a departure from the usual deployment strategy of MTA Police, which is typically most visible at busier transit hubs, like Penn Station and Jamaica.

Michael O’Meara, president of the MTA Police Benevolent Association, said the new patrols are made possible by the hiring of 500 additional MTA Police officers since 2019. Many of those cops had been initially intended to help patrol New York City subways, which are typically the purview of NYPD. O’Meara credited Mueller, who was hired in June, for listening to the concerns of railroad employees and passengers.

“He’s bringing a level of common sense to the MTA Police that we didn’t have before,” O’Meara said. “These arguments have been here forever, and they had been falling on deaf ears.”

An MTA spokesman said the creation of the new unit will be “cost neutral” to the department, because it entails reallocating existing cops.

O’Meara said he believes the move was a response to a drive from LIRR union leaders concerned about growing aggression toward train crews. MTA Board member Vincent Tessitore Jr., who represents LIRR union workers, said the spike in crime against train crew members is not fully captured in police statistics because some incidents are not considered felony assault. They include “verbal abuse” and riders “trapping our crews into train cabs.” 

“[This] is something I’ve been asking for years … and that’s dedicated train patrols to ride our trains and be visible and to be there to deter crime,” Tessitore said.

MTA chairman Janno Lieber has suggested that riders' perception about increasingly unsafe conditions on trains and at stations may be a key reason why some commuters who stopped riding transit during the pandemic have not returned. 

That assessment appeared to be borne out in the findings of the LIRR’s latest customer satisfaction survey, released Monday. In the survey, which was taken by 22,000 current and lapsed riders, the LIRR got some of its lowest marks on issues relating to safety, crime and quality of life. 

They included a 51% satisfaction rating for “personal security at destination” and 32% for homelessness at destination stations. However, more than 75% of respondents reported being satisfied with their personal security at their home station and on board trains.

LIRR acting chief customer officer Shanifah Rieara said she believed the new police initiative “will definitely speak to a lot of these customer concerns.”

Overall, the LIRR reported a customer satisfaction score of 81% — two percentage points higher than when it last surveyed customers in the fall of 2021.

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