UPDATED at 2:15 pm. ET with Frank James’ arrest.
There was an increased police presence in the New York City subway system following Tuesday’s shooting attack on a train in Brooklyn that left nearly two dozen people injured.
The shooting was able to happen despite what has been reported as a “record” number of NYPD police officers being assigned to step up their patrols of the city’s train stations as crime has especially been surging in the world’s largest rapid transit system.
Considering those facts, it was unclear how prime suspect Frank R. James could not only allegedly carry out such a brazen attack at the height of rush hour but also manage to escape from a subway station that is also a busy transit hub.
Law enforcement on Wednesday finally arrested James, 62, more than 24 hours after he allegedly got on the N train, put on a gas mask, detonated multiple smoke bombs, pulled out a gun and shot dozens of rounds before arriving at the 36th Street Station in Sunset Park about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
A bystander was able to record a video of the train pulling into the station, followed by the affected subway car’s doors opening, allowing smoke to billow out alongside passengers shown gasping for air while others collapsed on the platform.
Amazingly, none of the 10 people shot sustained life-threatening injuries. But somehow the shooter was able to escape and was large until Wednesday afternoon.
It was unclear why the bystander felt compelled to begin recording, but the fact that a cellphone was at the ready suggests the person doing the filming was likely aware something was wrong.
The presence of any police officers was conspicuously absent from the photo and video footage recorded in the immediate aftermath.
Back in January, when New York City Mayor Eric Adams was sworn in to his new post, he said he would be beefing up police subway patrols. That resulted in what the local news outlet amNewYork Metro reported was a “record” number of officers working in the Police Department’s Transit Bureau.
That came weeks after Adams, a former NYPD transit cop, said officers in the Police Department’s Transit Bureau would increase the frequency of patrolling stations, riding subways and making sure passengers are safe.
“We are going to add hundreds of daily visual inspections from existing police manpower … to go into the subway system and do visual inspections,” Adams said at the time during a press conference announcing the increase in transit officers’ deployment. “They’re going to ride through trains. When is the last time you saw an officer walk through the train, to see him there and engage with passengers [and ask], ‘How are you?’ ‘How was your day?’”
He added: “Omnipresence is the key. People feel the system is not safe because they don’t see officers. We’re going to bring a visual presence to our systems.”
In March, high-ranking members of the NYPD also asked to join the subway patrols.
An anonymous police source told the New York Post that the move came because the “Mayor wants the subways to feel safe.”
The source added, fatefully: “Chiefs on the subway will spur significant presence, at the very least, at the outset. The flip side is these effects are always temporary.”
Just last week, the NYPD boasted of the city’s crime statistics in March.
“Proactive engagement with offenders, relentless investigations and follow-up, and rapid deployment are proven methods to reduce crime and disorder on the streets, in the subways, or in public housing, Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri said in a press release.
It all begs the question: Where were the police officers who were assigned to the 36th Street subway station on Tuesday morning?
When asked whether any officers were at the 36th Street subway station Tuesday morning, the NYPD told NewsOne to “be referred to statements made during the press conference” Tuesday morning following the shooting. But no one who spoke at the press conference, including NYPD Chief Keechant Sewell, made any reference to the police presence at the station before and during the shooting. It was not immediately clear if any officers were at the station at the time.
Public transit advocates have said that more police in the subways will not necessarily translate into fewer crimes.
That was true in January when a homeless man pushed a woman to her death in front of an approaching subway train. In that instance, the New York Post reported that two NYPD transit officers were on the same platform where it happened but were unable to prevent it.
However, their presence guaranteed the assailant was apprehended immediately and not able to flee.
Considering how, um, vigilant the NYPD was in the subway during the pandemic — like when they arrested a woman selling churros in a train station; or when they physically restrained a little boy for selling candy in the subway; or when they violently shoved a schoolgirl who was trying to get home on the subway — it was not clear why that same level of vigilance was apparently absent at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park on Tuesday morning.
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