Chief Of Transit Joseph Fox’s Statement Before MTA NYCT Committee

June 20, 2016

Good morning. For the first five months of 2016, major felony crime was up 1.7% within the transit system – with 16 more incidents in 2016 than in 2015 (958 vs 942).

For the month of May, total major felonies were down 8.6% over the same period last year, with 19 less incidents (202 vs 221). There were 11 more felony assault incidents during the month (+47% 34 vs 23), though there were declines in robbery (-35%) and grand larceny (-7.9%).

Over this past month the average number of robberies decreased from 1.8 per day to 1.2 per day. The average number of major felonies per day decreased during this time as well, from 6.9 to an average of 6.3 major crimes each day.

Of the 202 major felonies during May, 38% (76) were committed in Manhattan, 24% (49) in Brooklyn, 18% (36) in the Bronx and 20% (41) in Queens.

As you know, I think it’s important to update you periodically about our efforts to combat sexually motivated offenses within the transit system. I mentioned last year that as we undertook efforts to encourage victims to report these crimes, and as we increased our plainclothes enforcement efforts in this area, that we would likely record more sex offenses. Just as we predicted, we recorded more sex offenses this year over last year.

There have also been 72 more arrests for sexually motivated crimes this year over the same period last year. As most arrests for these crimes come from officer initiated enforcement – where our plainclothes officers observe elements of a crime and intervene – you can see how our increased focus is having an impact. The same is true for the number of recorded crimes that come from women who have courageously come forward to report the incident.

This year there have been 431 recorded sex crimes in the subway, with 156 more reported incidents than the year prior (431 vs 275 +56.7%). These offenses include crimes such as forcible touching, public lewdness, and unlawful surveillance.

Doubling down on our efforts to encourage reporting has helped us document and follow up on crimes that would otherwise have gone unreported. As a result, in several cases our investigators have pieced together enough information to make arrests, and in many more we have been able to gather photos of the perpetrator or other critical leads that make a future arrest more likely.

I want to be clear – there is no indication that there are more sex offenses occurring in our subways. Rather, our efforts are having the desired effect – crimes that would previously go unreported because victims were embarrassed, intimidated, or lacked confidence that the case would be taken seriously are now being documented and fully investigated. Our teams are catching more sex offenders in the act, and more women are coming forward knowing that we are committed to aggressively pursuing each criminal complaint.

The MTA online complaint portal has played a part in this effort. This year we received 181 reports through this system. We follow up on each report, and when a victim’s information is provided, and there is evidence of a crime, a detective is assigned to investigate. In Manhattan, under a pilot project that began early this year, these cases are referred to the specialized investigators of our Manhattan Special Victims Unit. Crime complaints that are anonymous or that do not contain enough information are used to monitor trends and to deploy our teams to areas of concern.

I personally read each email that we receive from the MTA portal. Recently I have noticed a theme: several victims mentioned that they were inspired to report an incident after seeing media coverage about our efforts or hearing subway announcements and feeling that such complaints were being taken more seriously. This is very encouraging, and is part of the reason I wanted to update you today on the impact of our efforts. More women are coming forward, more crime complaints are being recorded, and more arrests are being made – an encouraging result of our initiatives by any measure – and a testament to the strength of the victims in these cases.

There are many other elements to our enhanced approach – not the least of which includes our focused training in this area. Veteran officers and detectives who are subject matter experts in combating sex crimes in transit are called upon to mentor and train our plainclothes teams to better be able to apprehend sex offenders.

To further ensure successful prosecutions in these cases, each time a report is taken or an arrest is made for a sex offense the victim is now asked to complete a Victim Statement of Allegations form. The full details of these horrific and personal crimes are documented in the victim’s own words – often moments after the incident in cases of an immediate arrest. This assists prosecutors in capturing and conveying the very real impact that these crimes have on their victims.

Two recent arrests are worth noting. Cecil McKenzie, a level two sex offender, was arrested by Manhattan Task Force Officer Frank Danoy after he was seen walking between the train cars in violation of transit regulations on April 8th. We quickly learned that McKenzie was on parole, was a designated transit sex offense recidivist, and had a stipulation placed on his parole from a prior sex crime prohibiting him from using the transit system. As a result of stopping him for this seemingly minor violation we were able to move forward with a parole violation. His parole has since been revoked – returning him to prison.

Last week Officer Miguel Brand and members of our plainclothes team in District Four observed William Faulkner commit forcible touching on the Lexington Avenue line. After intervening they learned he too was on parole for a prior sex offense and is a registered level three sex offender – the most dangerous classification. Faulkner was charged in this incident with persistent sexual abuse – a charge reserved for repeat offenders with prior sex crime convictions. And just like McKenzie, he was part of our parole stipulation program – prohibited from using the transit system as a condition of parole. This arrest has led to a violation of parole as a result.

One of the things that concerns me is the fact that if our team had not observed the crime and intervened, we know there is a chance it would have gone unreported – and a repeat sex offender would not have been held accountable for the crime. As I’ve said before, few men even know this problem exists, and unfortunately, far too many women do. So I thank the members of this board for giving me the time to share just how seriously we take these crimes so that women will be encouraged to tell us about them and save other women from being assaulted by people like Faulkner and McKenzie.

I would like to thank Mr. Tom Prendergast, Fernando Ferrer, Ronnie Hakim, and the members of this board for your continued support, and I welcome any questions or suggestions that you may have. Thank you.

Remarks as prepared, delivered statement may differ slightly.