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Mayor Eric Adams Unveils 'Omnipresence' Police Plan To Get Homeless Off The Subways

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Ushering in a new era of state-city cooperation, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday announced a new plan to get the homeless off the subways and a creative way to put more cops in the transit system.

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, the mayor and police commissioner have ordered officers to actually ride the trains.

At the Fulton Street subway station a man played the xylophone as cops patrolled the platforms, did visual inspections and K-9 units added their expertise to the new public safety plan.

The governor will provide teams of trained mental health professionals to get the homeless off the subways.

"These are medical professionals, they're social workers, outreach people ... who understand the very deep human needs that lead people to need more more help than they're getting," Hochul said.

They'll be called "SOS" teams -- Safe Options Support.

"Who will develop relationships, develop trust and allow us to face the issue of chronic street homelessness," Hochul said.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report --

The mayor says police will only refer homeless individuals to these outreach teams, unless they're committing a crime.

"Increased interactions between police officers and unsheltered people are inherently problematic and might actually break the trust the outreach teams work very hard to build with a vulnerable community," said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless.

"We will not allow our police officers to have unnecessary engagement with homeless individuals," Adams said.

That will free up cops to focus on public safety, with Adams, a former transit cop who patrolled the Fulton Street station, announcing an innovation plan to get hundreds more cops patrolling the transit system. He called it "Omnipresence."

"Omnipresence is the key. People feel as though the system is not safe because they don't see their officers," Adams said.

It's a two-pronged plan. Hundreds of desk officers and patrol cops in radio cars will be ordered to make visual inspections of subway stations in their sectors.

"When a police officer is not responding to a call of service, we're telling that officer, instead of sending your RMP, you're going into the subway system in your sector," Adams said. "There's no longer a separation between the subway system and the streets above."

With the patrol cops inspecting the platforms, transit cops will be free to ride the trains and interact with passengers.

"New Yorkers will witness uniformed officers' presence in the transit system, both on platforms, in and out of trains, riding the trains to cover as much ground as possible," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said.

"That's smartly using your police resources," Adams said.

"We're gonna talk to them, say 'Good morning,' say 'How are you? How is your day going?' and actually listening for the answer," Sewell said.

Transport Workers Union President Tony Utano praised the plan, saying the mayor and the governor "are giving the issue of public safety in the transit system the focus and attention that's required."

The governor and the mayor said this is all about economic recovery. People are not going to stop working remotely if they don't feel safe taking the subway.

"We keep getting false reassurances that the subway is gonna be safe," said Charlton D'Souza, with Passengers United.

The latest numbers show transit crime for December was up 67.3% citywide compared to the year prior and ridership is nearly half of pre-pandemic levels.

Lately, Bay Parkway resident Lavon Parker tries to avoid the subway past a certain hour.

"People wanna start stabbing and fighting. It's, it's too much," he told CBS2's Ali Bauman.

"Would having the police there make you feel safer?" Bauman asked.

"Yes," Parker said.

The governor and the mayor hope this plan will bring back riders and their $2.75 fare.

"We certainly hope that with this renewed collaboration between the city and the state, we will see a concrete movement away from the failed policies of the past and toward actual solutions," said Danny Pearlstein, with the Riders Alliance.

CBS2's Ali Bauman contributed to this report.

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