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MTA chief wants violent criminals banned from NYC trains and buses

Violent criminals ought to be banned from MTA trains and buses, MTA CEO Janno Lieber urged Monday.

At a Manhattan Institute breakfast, the agency chief made note of a current “subway banning law that applies to narrow circumstances.”

“We’ve got to expand it to more circumstances,” Lieber said.

New York law restricts transit bans to sex criminals and people who attack MTA workers. Just one person has been banned so far — a convicted transit perv who a judge last month barred from the Long Island Railroad for two years for sexually assaulting an MTA conductor.

Lieber said MTA leaders would like to see judicial power expanded to allow bans on the rails and buses for anyone convicted of a violent crime.

“I don’t see any reason why any violent crime in the system — if, you know, some of them go to jail, they should at least be not able to use the system and get in the face of their victims,” he said.

State legislators in Albany changed the state’s penal code in April 2020 to allow judges to prohibit people who attack MTA workers or commit sex crimes on transit from riding the rails as a term of probation or conditional discharge. The statute is rarely used.

MTA CEO Janno Lieber is seen speaking in front of a parked subway train car
MTA CEO Janno Lieber wants more convicted perps banned from mass transit.
Dennis A. Clark

Prior to the 2020 statute, defendants would have to voluntarily agree to stop riding the subways.

“There’s no reason why, if someone is victimized in the system, they should have to walk in two months later and see the person who attacked them or harmed them in the system,” Lieber said. “I want to see more banning.”

Felony crime underground is up 40% this year compared with 2021, according to the most recent available stats.

The increase outpaced the 38% rise in ridership over the same time period. But riders remain more likely to experience crime than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to NYPD figures.

Violent crime has also surged, particularly murder. NYPD recorded eight subway homicides in 2021 and eight in 2022 through the end of October — up from three in 2019 and the highest annual totals in 25 years.

Transit unions have strongly urged more rider bans — even as some rider advocates criticize the policy.

“The subway should be a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for all. The ban has been on the books for years without significant impact,” said Riders Alliance spokesman Danny Pearlstein.

“The subway is the city’s preeminent public space, and it faces the same challenges that any other public space faces. Banning is a facile attempt to addressing deeply-rooted problems.”