Kindness. Respect. Solidarity.

These are the words the MTA is giving center-stage in a new public messaging campaign encouraging New Yorkers to report hate crimes, harassment, and graffiti.

The digital campaign, which now appears on over 4,000 screens at stations and on subways, buses, and commuter trains, comes amid a spike in hate crimes. The NYPD Transit Bureau investigated 75 hate crimes in 2019, an increase of 42% compared to the previous year. The MTA Police Department investigated 26 hate crimes on the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and Staten Island Railway in 2019. 

On Friday night, a transgender woman said she was attacked by two people on the C train. One arrest has been made in connection with that incident. 

“The point of this campaign is to raise awareness first,” said MTA Chairman Pat Foye, announcing the new campaign at Grand Central Terminal. “Perhaps in some cases to change behavior, but also to make clear… that this is unacceptable on the MTA system.”

Kiara St. James, founder and executive director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, lead the crowd in a call-and-response.

“Trans lives matter!” said St. James, her words reverberating off the marble walls and bouncing 12 stories high in the main concourse.

The MTA’s website now has tips on what to do if you witness a possible hate crime, including writing down as many details as possible and taking a photo.

“We want everyone to feel safe,” said Sarah Meyer, Chief Customer Officer at New York City Transit. “That being said, photos are helpful to investigations and so are videos.”

Some riders, when asked about the campaign, said they thought it could have a positive effect.

Frank Stechel, who wears a yarmulke and lives in Highland Park, New Jersey, recalled how he’d been punched on the train when he was younger in what he believes was a targeted act.

“I think it’s great,” said Stechel of the new messaging, adding that he would “definitely” call the hotline if he witnessed or experienced harassment again.

But Claire Schweitzer from the Upper West Side was skeptical. She called it an example of “wanting to say you're doing something but not actually committing to making any real change.” She said she would rather see the MTA allocate more staff and resources toward addressing hate crimes instead of putting the onus on riders to report.

Commuters who’ve witnessed harassment should call the New York State Hate Crimes Task Force (1-888-392-3644), text “HATE” to 81336, or email/text tips@mtahq.org. If the crime is in progress, these digital billboards say to contact an MTA employee or police officer or to call 911 immediately.