Jayjon Burnett, 15, who was shot point-blank in the chest on the Queens A train on his way home from school on Friday, became the city’s third subway murder victim in just two weeks and the eighth such a victim this year. This preventable – and growing – death toll is not only horrifying for the victims; it’s horrible for the health of the city.
The three recent murders are an acceleration of the post-COVID trend. Since March 2020, 22 New Yorkers have been violently murdered on the subway (and a recent fatal stabbing on a Bronx bus puts 23 on public transit).
In 2019, by contrast, it took nearly 13 years to rack up 22 subway murders.
When a union pipe fitter, a Citi Field maintenance worker and a high school student can all be killed in just 14 days, on three different train lines in three different boroughs – Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens respectively – some something went terribly wrong.
The progressive line is to deny the scale of the subway murder crisis. Mid-September from Councilwoman Tiffany Caban comment that “subway violence is a once-in-a-million event” has not aged well; we went from once in a million to three in two weeks.
What is more shocking, however, is that conventional wisdom, too, prefers to deny or minimize the problem. Mocked NY1’s Errol Louis last week after two of the three most recent subway murders as he enjoyed his own, thankfully uneventful, ride: “Coming home to the violent New York subways York. Riders paralyzed with fear.
OK, so – why should you care about murders on the subway? Well, because they are the barometer of urban public safety at large.
Whether people feel safe on the subway is the ultimate test of a dense city. Taking the metro is different from walking down the street, where you can pick up your pace or cross to the other side to avoid an awkward situation.
On the subway, on the other hand, the city asks people to voluntarily enter a locked metal box with dozens of strangers.
Runners must have some the comfort that everyone plays by the same rules, starting with paying the fare – and that the city and state government have done their best to ensure that anti-social actors cannot get away with it. attack everyone repeatedly.
Yet it’s not just that New Yorkers feel unsafe. They have lost faith that the city and the state are trying to keep them safe.
New York City and the state threw out the rulebook, elevating the privileges of violent suspects above all others, a strategy that simply doesn’t work in a group setting. The suspected killer of Brooklyn subway commuter Tommy Bailey last month, remember, was out on cashless bail for a similar attempted murder on the subway the year before.
It’s not just the murders. Last week in Queens, a thief forcibly trapped a woman in a metal turnstile until she gave up her wallet.
This erosion of trust in strangers, an essential ingredient in a bustling city, is a major reason why post-COVID subway ridership is stuck at less than two-thirds of normal. If you don’t have to take the trains, you don’t. Meanwhile, car and truck traffic on bridges and tunnels has fully recovered.
This mass exodus from the metro has an impact above ground. Are you worried about being run over by a car? Getting more people out of their cars and onto the subway alone reduces road deaths.
For nearly three decades until 2019, road deaths declined as underground public safety improved. In 1990, the worst year for both, 26 people were murdered on the subway and 701 died in traffic accidents. In 2019, three people were killed on the metro and 220 died in traffic accidents.
Since 2020, however, subway murders and road deaths have skyrocketed. New York has suffered 187 road deaths through September this year, 14% above 2019 levels.
The subway murder crisis is the cutting edge of both these problems. Fix one and you’ll help fix the other. Worried about pollution and traffic jams? Same thing.
Progressives love to hold up Paris and London as examples of successful global cities. But they never mention that no one has been murdered on the Paris metro for years and since COVID one person has been killed on London’s public transport system (on the bus).
New York won’t get people back into that locked metal box with strangers, and out of their much more dangerous cars, until the crime on the subway goes down. New York’s public safety, as a whole, therefore, lives or dies by its subways — in recent weeks, too literally.
Nicole Gelinas is editor-in-chief of the City Journal at the Manhattan Institute.