Reports of Subway Sex Crimes Are on the Rise — and That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

Advocates believe the uptick is the result of more victims coming forward.

(Photo by Denys Argyriou)

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Reports of subway sex crimes in New York City are on the rise, City Limits reports. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the crimes themselves are increasing.

The number of reported crimes rose last year for the fourth consecutive year.

From City Limits:

The NYPD received 1,024 reports of sex offenses in the transit system in 2017, up 8.8 percent from 2016, when there were 941 such crimes, according to statistics provided by police. The number of incidents in 2016 were also up 27.5 percent from 2015, when there were 738 incidents, police said. So far this year, however, the trend appears to be slowing: there were 501 subway incidents reported in 2018 as of July 29, compared to 593 during the same time period in 2017, according to NYPD stats.

Advocates say that uptick is the result of more victims coming forward, inspired by campaigns like the #MeToo movement, according to the site.

“Women, and people in general, are starting to realize that they have agency over their space, their body, and feel comfortable coming out and sharing, ‘Hey, this is happening to me,’” Maliyka Muhammad, a board member with the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment, told City Limits. “‘This is my body. I don’t have to tolerate it, and I don’t have to keep silent when it happens.’ People are starting to feel empowered.”

But as Next City has covered, policymakers — as well as the people planning city spaces — have yet to respond to that newfound agency. If lasting change is going to be achieved, seemingly small changes like establishing better lighting near transit stations and ensuring that buses and trains run on time can make a huge difference. The Inter-American Development Bank has found that the closer transport systems stick to their schedule, the less likely it is that a woman will become a victim of a crime.

Few stars of urban planning are female, which is one reason advocates believe those simple policy fixes aren’t often passed or budgeted.

“Patriarchal power structures govern not only relationships between people, but also interactions between people and space,” Jana Korn wrote in an op-ed for Next City last year.

New York agencies are implementing some structural shifts, according to City Limits. Both the MTA and the NYPD have more actively urged subway victims to come forward in recent years. In 2014, the MTA created a website for victims to report incidents of subway sexual misconduct online. In April, meanwhile, the NYPD launched an awareness campaign encouraging all residents to report sex crimes to the police.

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: public transportationtransit agenciespublic spacepublic safety

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