MTA Spokesperson explains need for MTA Police

The Millbrook Independent queried the MTA about the MTA Police, what their duties are, what their budget is and how they different from the Transit Police and the NYPD.  We received the following answer from Aaron Donovan, Deputy Director for External Communications of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The MTA Police are part of the MTA.  The MTA’s annual operating budget, encompassing Metro-North, NYC Subways and Buses, MTA Police, the LIRR, the Staten Island Railroad is about $14 billion (more than half of which is paid for by fares and tolls). The MTA Police budget is $140 million per year, or 1% of the MTA’s budget.

The cost of the project to upgrade the police radio system is about $90 million over multiple years.

The Transit Police used to patrol the subway system, but they were subsumed into the NYPD Transit Bureau.   The NYPD is not part of the MTA.  It is part of the City of New York.   The Transit Police was never involved with Metro-North. 

The New York City Subway and bus system is now patrolled by the NYPD, and has been as long as I have worked here.   The MTA Police patrol Metro-North, the LIRR and Staten Island Railway.  It was created out of the former separate police forces for those railroads.  

Railroad police departments have existed in America as long as railroads themselves because they have the expertise, training and motivation to focus on the safety and security of hundreds of thousands of people who are moving across jurisdictional lines at high speeds. While private freight railroads maintain their own police forces, the role of passenger railroad police is arguably even more important to the safety and security of the public.

The MTA Police have the resources and training to be able to respond tthe many conditions that are particularly challenging to railroad operations, and that would be difficult to address in a coordinated way if the response was left to the many local, county and state police forces in the region we serve. We work on a daily basis with those police forces, but to ask them to face challenges that they are not used seeing to would mean a degradation of service to the public.  Among the conditions the MTA Police must deal with all too regularly are:

* Fare evasion

* Disorderly or intoxicated passengers

* Homelessness, which is very frequently manifested at train stations and our major hubs.

* Disabled trains, sometimes with hundreds of passengers stranded between stations in difficult conditions. Just accessing the trains from outside without being electrocuted or struck by another train requires specialized training.

* Fatalities that result from unauthorized people being on the tracks.

* Suspicious and unattended packages. Our 50-person, 50-dog Canine Until clears the thousands of such packages a year that are reported to us by customers.

* Major service disruptions like the one caused by the freight derailment in Hicksville yesterday, where hundreds of passenger are transferring between trains and buses at multiple points.

* Over-height trucks striking railroad overpasses.

* Enforcement of railroad crossings safety, including ensuring safety responding to reports of malfunctioning crossing arms or lights.

* Hundreds of thousands of automobiles are left unattended for many hours at train stations throughout our region. Auto break-ins, theft of personal property, theft of catalytic converters, are all crimes that the MTA Police seek to prevent but must investigate when they do happen.

If the local, state and county police forces in the regions we serve were called away on a regular basis to handle these issues, they would have fewer officers available to respond to the normal incidents they face in their jurisdictions. At the same time, the MTA Police regularly assist the police forces in the communities we serve on an as-requested basis.

Finally, there is the ever-present specter of terrorism. Transportation infrastructure has proven to be a favorite target of terrorists around the world; the MTA Police are a key component of New York’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, and are on the front-lines in the war on terror.

Given the demand for their services over a 5,000-square-mile territory, a 722-member, specially trained police department is not excessive by any means.  With regard to the New York City Subway system, the NYPD has taken up the duties of the former Transit Police by creating a substantial Transit Bureau that is separate from their patrol units.

To report a car break-in or vandalism, someone should call 911.  The 911 operators would route the call to the appropriate police agency, depending on the specifics of the incident. If it happens at a train station they will route the call to the MTAPD.