Today, the NY Post headlined its story about a nearly 20% increase in reported subway sex crimes, "City subways are a pervert’s paradise." But is it really worse—or are there just better tools for riders to report incidents, as well as better-educated police officers?
According to the Post, 699 incidents were reported in the past five months (up from 593 in the same period last year): "The most common offenses are forcible touching, lewdness and unwanted surveillance, NYPD Deputy Chief Vincent Coogan told MTA officials at a meeting. Coogan said the rising number of complaints stems partly from riders getting more serious about inappropriate behavior and reporting it. He said cops have been able to make arrests in more than half the cases — an increase in busts — because more straphangers are snapping cellphone photos of perpetrators." Victims are also taking incriminating videos of the perverts.
Which is true: The MTA's website has a place where you can report such incidents—and upload pictures—and detectives will contact you. The authorities have come a long way since 2005, when one subway rider took a photograph of a man masturbating and tried to report it:
I got off at 34th street and reported it to a token booth operator. She was very helpful and directed me to a policewoman. The policewoman wrote down my description of the man and I asked her if she wanted the picture but she didn't take it. She told me that she would radio other officers and they would be on the lookout for that man. I couldn't believe she didn't take the picture, it had a pretty clear view of this person.
She ended up posting it to Flickr; we reported on it and then it made its way to the front page of the Daily News. And it turned out the R—as in RUDE—train rider was a vegetarian chef named Dan Hoyt, a serial subway flasher/masturbator, who was eventually convicted of public lewdness.
Still, there are recent instances of MTA workers or police officers not taking some claims seriously. Sometimes some people who report incidents at their local police precincts are told they need to go to a different precinct, the one where the incident occurred, which can discourage well-meaning citizens from filing the report. So that's why the MTA's website is a good place to report the crime.
One woman who reported a subway masturbator on the A train earlier this year told us, "When I was in Manhattan filing my report, ANOTHER call came in from another woman, different train, probably a different guy, also masturbating. So, I guess it's a hot topic because men can't stop masturbating on public transportation."