Watch CBS News

Exclusive: NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban rides subway to hear riders' concerns

NYPD brass ride the rails to find out how to make riders feel safer
NYPD brass ride the rails to find out how to make riders feel safer 02:19

NEW YORK -- Nearly two dozen NYPD brass rode the subway Thursday to find how they can make straphangers feel safer.

Only CBS New York political reporter Marcia Kramer accompanied Police Commissioner Edward Caban.

He swiped his card and paid his fare like any other straphanger, except Caban is definitely not just any other straphanger. He is the police commissioner, out to find out if his new policy of flooding the system with cops is paying off.

After a number of high-profile incidents, like last week's subway shooting, he got an earful.

"I don't feel safe on the subway and I prefer not to take it," rider Casey Schwartz said.

"That's why we're down here, Casey, to have honest dialogues with people. So why don't you feel safe in our subway systems?" Caban asked.

"Because there's a lot of violence, it doesn't feel very controlled, and, you know, you just hear a lot of things. There's not really security that I feel is present," Schwartz said.

"So that's what we're battling now -- the perception versus reality," Caban said.

The commissioner and Chief of Transit Michael Kemper can spout all kinds of statistics -- an average of six felonies a day on a system that transports millions -- but they say they're hampered by high-profile incidents that end up going viral on social media.

"I think social media plays a part in it," Caban said.

"In fostering the fear that people have?" Kramer asked.

"Sure ... If something happens, it's sent out instantaneously," Caban said.

"If you could change one thing about the subway system, what would you do?" Kemper asked one rider.

"One thing, I think, honestly speaking, the homeless problem is a problem, especially early morning," the rider said.

Two students told Caban they always try to ride together for safety and have changed their behavior for self-protection.

"I definitely hold my bag closer to me and make sure my phone is at least near me most of the time," one student said.

"I'm definitely a lot more on edge, I think, when I'm on the subway. I'm a lot more aware of what's going on. I personally find myself getting, like, stressed and anxious sometimes," the other student said.

There was one group of students who told the commissioner they love the subway, exchanging joyous high fives with him. It turns out they were on a school trip from Miami.

One thing you can say is that this has been a huge learning experience for both the police commissioner and the head of transit.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.