Fear Spreading Throughout NY

As crime increases in the transit city, people are becoming more frightened, and are taking new measures to stay safe.

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By Ori Mermelstein

Last month, on what seemed to be a regular Tuesday, a man walked into a crowded N train at 8:00 a.m., set off a smoke bomb, and started shooting. At the next stop, dozens of people ran off the train, scared for their lives. Ten people were shot and 13 others suffered smoke inhalation or panic-induced injuries. This shooting seemed like a random incident, though New York City crime rates have recently been increasing. In the first three weeks of March 2022, there were 55 reported transit crimes, compared to only 18 in March 2021, which is over a 200 percent increase. Aside from the people who were physically threatened, hundreds of thousands of New York residents have since shared a collective feeling of fear of public transportation.

Though the shooting was not the first incident of violence on NYC trains, this shooting brought the recent increase in crime into the forefront of New Yorkers’ minds. “Before this shooting, there was the occasional crackhead or dangerous-looking person, but not bad enough [that] I was constantly scared,” junior Alexandra Tsarenkov said. She has a 2 train commute from South Brooklyn, and no other way but the subway to get to school. Many people have had experiences with being wary of individuals on the train, but not to this extent, as this has become the largest shooting ever in MTA’s history.

The recent shooting became the worst transit crime ever in New York City, and the city’s residents are expectedly shocked. Sophomore Ellen Yu takes the LIRR and then the 2 train to get to school. “I’ve always been scared of taking public transportation,” Yu said.

The New York transit system is not known for its safety, and students especially tend to travel in groups and not speak to strangers. “My parents have always told me horror stories about the trains, and told me to be careful,” sophomore Kaedan Ruparel said.

This fear was only exacerbated by the recent shooting. “After the shooting, I was more scared than usual, and I didn’t want to take the subways alone, but I could never consider an alternate route because it doesn’t exist,” Yu said. Students like Yu have to face their fears everyday by stepping on the train in order to go through with their daily schedule.

Some students decided that this shooting was the last straw and have restructured their entire commute because of it. Ruparel used to take the train for four stops every day, making his entire commute just ten minutes, but has changed his routine since then. “My parents immediately stopped allowing both my sister and I [to take] the train, and constantly tell us about the terrible crimes occurring, like the shooting or stabbings,” he said. “Since the shooting, my family and I have been so scared that I now take a Citi Bike everyday unless it is raining.” Though his commute is now more than double the time, he feels safer.

This reaction isn’t the same in every family, as some families are not even fazed by these crimes. “My family has told me to be more careful and try not to be alone, but they don’t mention it much,” Yu said. “They understand I will have to make the commute either way.”

No matter what one’s family believes, there has been a general increase in awareness in students of their surroundings on their way to school. “My music is less loud and my hood is always down, so I can be more observant,” Tsarenkov said.

While the transit system is once again seen as more dangerous, most students have few options but to continue taking trains every day. As frightening as the situation is, it is a city-wide issue, and the reactions and feelings that arise from it are relatable for the majority of those who take public transportation. Students and families should not worry too much as such incidents are still not the norm, but may exercise caution on their subway journeys.