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De Blasio Pledges Crackdown On Growing Homeless Epidemic On City's Subway Trains

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio has once again vowed a crackdown on homeless people escaping the cold by camping out on the city's subways.

Video shows a subway car turned into a personal closet by a homeless person, complete with bags, boxes, and clothes littered on the train's floor. Another shows a homeless person turning a bench into a bed.

credit: CBS2

Those are just some of the indignities endured by subway riders as the plummeting temperatures drive the homeless underground. It turned a Tuesday press conference into a show-and-tell for the mayor, and a renewed demand for answers that would provide relief for straphangers.

De Blasio reassured he'd get Commissioner James O'Neill and the NYPD on the case.

"We will not tolerate people bringing vast amounts of belongings into a subway car, we won't tolerate people sleeping on the benches," the mayor said. "If someone is lying out on a bench we want them to stop doing that, and conform with the law. If they refuse, we have the opportunity to take them out of the subways. Depending on the circumstance there obviously is the potential for arrest."

Things are so bad, even a man who lives in a city shelter complained to CBS2 about the homeless on the subways.

"They're taking up seats, tourists feel uncomfortable, it's just worse," Ayman Said said.

He says he has a number of solutions for the mayor and the NYPD to consider.

"They need to have constant people, like when the train gets to the end of the stop, people who are sleeping on there, they have to wake 'em," he said. "All they're doing is tapping and making them get on the next train."

He has another idea for the cops who patrol the subways.

"There should actually be cameras on the subway, like in the actual subway cars, and have... enforcers," Said said.

A day after an MTA spokesperson refused to comment when pressed for a response by CBS2's Lisa Rozner, the agency released a statement backing criticized Transit Authority chairman Andy Byford.

"President Byford has repeatedly said that homelessness is a societal problem that demands a multi-agency approach, balancing everyone's right to a clean, safe, and comfortable experience on public transit with the need to get people the help they need.  We rely upon the NYPD to enforce the Transit Rules of Conduct and partners like the Department of Homeless Services and Bowery Residents Committee to help holistically respond to this citywide crisis."

Commissioner O'Neill says riders should report problems with the homeless to a conductor or a police officer. Meantime, a department spokesman tells CBS2 the NYPD and MTA already have a pilot program to put cameras on trains and at stations and gates.

Sources say the program for cameras on the subway is ongoing. There's no word on when it will be installed system-wide.

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