Home Subway Security Sexual harassment leading quality-of-life subway crime

Sexual harassment leading quality-of-life subway crime

by Benjamin Kabak

Despite increased attention to the program of sexual offenses underground and a recent PSA campaign targeting subway gropers and flashers, sexual harassment of women remains the top quality-of-life crime in the subways. At a joint meeting of the City Council’s transportation, women’s issues and public safety committee today, officials discussed their stark findings, and it is clear that women face a substantial risk of underground harassment.

Jennifer 8. Lee of The Times covered the meeting:

The peak times in which women report sexual harassment or assaults on the subways are the late morning rush, roughly 8 to 10 a.m., followed by the early afternoon rush, 4 to 6 p.m. One stretch of the subways — the crowded Nos. 4, 5 and 6 lines between Grand Central Terminal and Union Station — is a particular source of complaints. And the average age of the men arrested for sexual offenses on the subways is 39…

First to testify on Thursday was James P. Hall, chief of the Police Department’s Transit Bureau, who said that sexual harassment was the “No. 1 quality of life offense on the subway.” Chief Hall reported that as of Nov. 15, there had been 587 reports of sex offenses in the subway system this year. “However, we strongly suspect this is a highly underreported crime,” he said.

The police have arrested 412 people for sex offenses in the subway so far this year. Of that number, 71 had committed prior sexual offenses and 14 were registered sex offenders. Five of the 14 were the most serious level of sex offender, Level 3.

As the council members clamored for more enforcement, the MTA explained its recent efforts to combat these crimes. The PSA poster, above, will remain in place at least through January, and astute straphangers may have heard a recent addition to the automated announcements prevalent in the new train cars: “A crowded train is no excuse for an improper touch. Don’t stand for it, feel ashamed or be afraid to speak up.”

The MTA is fast to remind its passengers to say something if they see something. The same holds for these quality-of-life offenses. No one should be subjected to rude sexual behavior while riding the rails, but it is a deeply disturbing fact of life in the New York subways.

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John November 19, 2009 - 5:02 pm

So 412 arrests out of 587 reported incidents? Seems like a high percentage of enforcement to me. Maybe the penalties need to be more harsh – what became of the 412 arrests?

Benjamin Kabak November 19, 2009 - 5:03 pm

It’s a high percentage of successful captures, but officials believe this to be the most underreported crime in the subway. Most women who are groped or harassed simply chalk it up to the costs of riding and never tell anyone. It’s pretty upsetting really.

Angela November 19, 2009 - 6:53 pm

I’m glad the MTA is fostering an environment where women feel they *can* come forward in the event of sexual harassment, but I wish campaigns like this one would also focus on the perpetrators – instead of following up “A crowded train is no excuse for an improper touch” with what to do if you’re the victim, it should be followed up with warnings about the consequences of being the toucher.

Julia November 20, 2009 - 2:13 pm

ITA. The language in this ad makes it the victim’s problem.

Cen-Sin November 19, 2009 - 7:25 pm

I couldn’t help but think of Japan when this post came up. The sexual harassment rate is apparently much higher, and the topic of train molesters is common in many forms of media (comics, cartoons, movies, etc.) Some trains in Japan have a car specially reserved for women to combat the problem.

Jerrold November 20, 2009 - 11:51 am

It is obviously not a coincidence about the Lexington Ave. subway having the highest rate of occurrence of such offenses.
Another consequence of the overcrowding on that line, and therefore another demonstration of the need for a full-length Second Ave. subway.

AmandaLP November 20, 2009 - 2:07 pm

The reason why the complaints to arrest ratio is so high is because the police have only been taking complaints when the perpetrator is there. Thus, if someone does not know who is groping her, or the perpetrator moves to another car, or gets off the subway, or she gets off the subway and the perpetrator does not, the police are not taking down the complaints.

There are several stories about police officers and MTA employees that are refusing to file complaints. If everyone who was sexually harassed or assaulted on the subway complained, I am sure that 587 would be surpassed in a few hours.

Mike Nitabach November 22, 2009 - 4:31 pm

Some trains in Japan have a car specially reserved for women to combat the problem.

Yup. I just returned from Tokyo, and the Marunouchi (sp?) Line has women-only cars, but only during the morning rush hour. Interestingly, many of the most crowded stations on this line have shoulder height solid barriers along the entire platform edge with automatic sliding doors that only open to allow access to the train doors once the train has stopped in the station. I guess this is to prevent people from being shoved onto the tracks during rush hour. The unfortunate thing is that this eliminates the ability to engage in the rewarding compulsive behavior of looking down the track to see if the train is coming!

One of the strange things I noticed in Japan is that a culture of such extreme courtesy and politeness completely discards that attitude when it comes to packing into subway cars and elevators. In the fancy department stores of the big cities, very nicely dressed young women in elegant uniforms and white gloves are positioned outside the elevators to help shove as many people into each elevator car as possible. Passengers just ram their way vigorously into the front of the elevator car, and they keep shoving until people in the very back of the car start to squeal, and then they stop and allow the doors to close.

tomhoser April 28, 2010 - 3:49 pm

Sure, it’s a problem but on the other side, I don’t want to spend all day at a precinct explaining that all I was trying to do was pick up my glasses off of the deck because some dike has a power trip.

Calling for an end to subway groping :: Second Ave. Sagas April 11, 2011 - 3:22 pm

[…] campaign — one they currently overhauling — in 2008, but sexual harassment remained the leading quality-of-life subway crime. That behavior should not be tolerated. Share Tweet Categories : Subway […]


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