NEW YORK CITY — More than 400 sex crimes have been reported in the New York City subway system this year as police crack down on offenders while encouraging women to report incidents, officials said Monday.
This year, there have been 431 reported sex crimes in the subway — 156 more recorded incidents than the year prior, NYPD Transit Bureau Chief Joe Fox said at the MTA's board meeting. That's a 56.7 percent increase in reports.
The offenses include forcible touching, public lewdness and unlawful surveillance, such as grinding, exposing themselves, masturbation, groping, and taking photos of women's private areas, but not forcible rape, Fox said.
"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," he said during the meeting.
"Few men know this problem exists, but far too many women do," he said.
The rise in the number of recorded incidents was attributed to women "courageously" coming forward to report these crimes. There is no evidence to indicate that more women are being subjected to sex crimes as compared to previous years, Fox said.
Police officers have made 72 more arrests this year for sexually-motivated offenses as compared to the same period a year ago.
Roughly three-quarters of the arrests were made by plainclothes officers monitoring the subway system, whose presence has been increased this year. They are able to catch offenders in the act after they "observe elements of the crime and intervene," Fox said.
Police officials and the MTA, through a campaign involving subway announcements and posters, are also encouraging women to report these crimes.
“Our efforts to encourage reporting has helped us document & follow up on crimes that would otherwise have gone unreported,” @NYPDTransit— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) June 20, 2016
Officals have tried to make it as quick as possible to report sex crimes — taking complaints through 911, the MTA's online complaint portal as well as by officers on the scene who take victim impact statements in roughly 15 minutes or less, the NYPD chief said.
New York City Transit president Veronique Hakim said the MTA is equally focused on aggressively prosecuting recidivists in the system.
The emails sent to through the MTA's complaint portal are personally read by Fox and the commanding officers of transit districts.
"It's a pretty profound experience to read the woman's own words," Fox said. "The anger, the embarrassment, the fear."
Sex offenders in the subway system overwhelmingly target women, many of whom are hesitant to come forward because of embarrassment, intimidation or a lack of confidence.
"The most important reason for me is that they think no one cares," Fox told DNAinfo after the meeting. "And we care."