Felonies on Metro-North trains rise 6%
From January through August of this year, felony crimes on Metro-North Railroad were up 6 percent over the same months in 2010, including a 22 percent growth in grand larcenies, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police.
The number of crimes in that period fell in the categories of robbery, felony assault and burglary, though the total number of crimes categorized as major felonies rose from 93 to 99 incidents, according to MTA statistics.
Grand larcenies increased from 65 to 79, while robberies fell from 11 to 6, according to MTA police statistics.
MTA Police Chief Michael Coan said while the increase in larcenies should not be dismissed, riders should feel secure that, on the whole, they are well protected.
Automobile burglaries on the New Haven Line fell from 6 to 2 from January through August 2010 and the same period in 2011, while felony assaults fell from 7 to 6.
"Overall, the system is extremely safe and averages about half an index crime a day," Coan said. "It's very safe."
The increase in larcenies is partly due to the theft of electronics such as iPhones, iPads and various laptops, either on board trains or at stations, Coan said.
"This year, electronics are driving the numbers and throughout the system, 25 percent of our larcenies are cellphone driven," he said.
On the New Haven Line, through September, there have been 91 grand larcenies versus 81 on the Long Island Railroad. The New Haven Line number includes 36 cases originating in Grand Central Terminal and parts of the system, along with shoplifting and property theft reports there.
"It's important that only half of our larcenies occur on a train," Coan said. "A fair number of them are someone stealing property from a store or a shopping bag stolen while you're eating on the dining concourse at Grand Central."
On the New Haven Line there were 3 felony assaults, of 6 on the entire Metro-North network. Arrests were made in all three New Haven Line cases, including one on an MTA police officer, and an early morning brawl between passengers, Coan said.
There were no murders or rapes on the Metro-North system in 2009, 2010, or so far in 2011.
MTA police have also seen fewer cases of railroad property theft in 2011 than last year, when a group of copper thieves stole the valuable metal from depots on the Hudson Line.
Since this summer, the per-pound copper price has fallen on the New York Mercantile Exchange from above $4 to $3.29.
"Two weeks ago, we had a nine-month low in the price of copper and it was at a high at the beginning of the year," Coan said. "We have detectives track the price and remind everyone to be alert when it hits $4. That seems to be the threshold."
The MTA Police includes 700 uniformed officers who enforce laws in New York, Long Island and Connecticut covering 14 counties, including law enforcement on Staten Island Rapid Transit.
Terri Cronin, vice chairman of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, which represents the interests of state rail riders, said she has not received an increased number of complaints about the theft of electronics.
"I haven't seen or heard of anything that makes me feel less safe on the trains," she said.
Cronin said one issue remaining important to deterring crimes is maintaining and expanding the use of safety cameras on platforms and within stations to identify culprits in crimes.
"The increase in the numbers of any kind of crime is always a concern and I hope the MTA is able to track most of these people down," Cronin said. "I'm a big advocate of having cameras and it seems they are the best way we have of finding people after a crime is committed."