A Wake-Up Call For Sleeping Riders


“Ladies and Gentlemen: This is an important message from the New York City Police Department: Wake the hell up!!!”

That’s not an official NYCT announcement but maybe it should be. Approximately 50% of subway crime victims are sleeping - or awake but not paying attention to their surroundings - when a thief steals their iPhone, wallet or some other property, according to police. “They don’t even realize they were crime victims until hours later,” NYPD Transit Bureau Police Chief Joseph Fox said.

Career pickpockets and thieves of varying skill carried out many of these thefts, but police have spotted a new trend: riders without criminal records stealing from other riders - just because it’s so easy, Fox said. “They are opportunists who have never been arrested before,” Fox said.

And there are plenty of opportunities. The new generation of riders is less fearful and less vigilant. Maybe that’s because weren’t around when taking the subway was a much riskier endeavor. There were approximately 48 felonies a day committed in 1990. In January and February of this year the daily average was about six felonies. Liam, a high school senior, became one of the first crime victims of the year after hitting the punch bowl a bit too hard at the New Year’s Eve party. He made it to the subway but then fell into a deep, deep slumber. Every Mariachi band in the city could have crammed into the empty car and our young straphanger would have snored right through it.

He woke up in the wrong borough – without his cell phone and wallet.  A thief working the No. 1 line relieved him of his property. By the time Liam made it home to his very worried parents hours after his curfew the sun was rising. "I wanted to punch him in the face and hug him at the same time," his father said. “I told him he'd be punished by being grounded and by having me call him a rube every day for several weeks.”

So, don’t be a rube.  As transit workers know, riders still need some street smarts underground. “Just think long and hard about when you close eyes, where you keep your property and where you sit,” Fox said.