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.