Two more New Yorkers were caught riding the subway, part of a disturbing trend fueled by social media and even drawing daredevils from Europe, police said Tuesday.
“They are recording themselves, they are posting on social media and they are doing it all for cheap excitement, attention and influence,” said New York Police Traffic Chief Michael Kemper. “They are not thinking about the tragic consequences.”
On February 20, 15-year-old Zackery Nazario was killed while riding the subway on a train that rumbled over the Williamsburg Bridge as his girlfriend looked on in horror. Police said the young man was struck by a low beam and flipped between the carriages, at which point he was struck by the train.
Another 15-year-old, Ka’Von Wooden, was killed in December. He was riding the subway on a train approaching the Delancey Street/Essex Street station on the Lower East Side when he fell off and hit the third rail.
The stunt is growing in popularity, with 928 car-riding incidents last year, compared to just 206 the year before, according to the MTA.
Kemper said it’s not unusual for police to catch Europeans surfing the subway while visiting the city.
“This is the largest metro system in the world,” he said. “This is New York City. There are people who are just infatuated with metro systems.”
So far this year, police have made 55 arrests for unsafe driving, compared to 185 for all of last year. In 2021, the number was just 80. Unsafe driving includes riding between cars and riding off the last car, as well as surfing on top of a subway car or hanging from the side.
In dozens of cases involving teens, the offender is usually left in the custody of a parent, and police prepare a juvenile report instead of filing criminal charges.
“Our goal is to prevent these kids from doing this,” Kemper said.
Last Friday afternoon, police stopped a No. 7 train at the Junction Blvd. station in Corona and apprehended two teenagers.
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One, a 15-year-old, was hanging out in the driver’s cab. The other, 16 years old, was traveling in the back of the train. Both were handed over to their mothers.
Then on Monday afternoon, another 15-year-old boy was caught hanging from the last car of a D train at the Bay 50th St. station in Bensonhurst.
Kemper said the worrying increase comes amid a continued drop in major crime on the subway.
So far this year, the crime rate has dropped by 22%, a decline that he says began on October 25. That day, the department flooded the system with an additional 1,200 police officers.
Kemper said a strong uniformed presence, combined with an increase in quality of life enforcement, has led to the sharp declines.
Fee evasion arrests have more than tripled this year, to 762. Those arrests are typically for people caught committing other crimes or for those with warrants, according to Kemper. Another 21,263 offenders received citations, compared to just 12,338 at this time last year.
“Simply setting the tone for law and order in the underground system is part of the reason” for the drop in crime, Kemper said.