By Marcia Kramer

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Crime on city subways increased dramatically last month, driven by assaults and thefts targeting straphangers.

A subway rider told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer on Monday she never leaves home without a canister of mace in her pocketbook.

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“I know how to take care of myself as a young woman. It’s called carrying mace or a Taser, and, unfortunately, that’s the mixed up world we live in,” Ariana said.

“I take the subway now, but when I’m going home I take the express bus,” Staten Island’s Basher Masoud said, adding when asked why, “Because of safety. It’s $6.75 — it costs me to buy safety. Why do I have to pay $2.50 or $2.75. I don’t know who’s on the train with me.”

Two subway riders, two different approaches to keeping themselves safe as the beleaguered system posts a dramatic increase in crime.

“We took an uptick in overall crime for the month of September. There were 68 additional incidents compared to the same month last year,” NYPD Inspector Raymond Porteous said.

Porteous told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board about a 58.6% increase in major crimes last month that included an increase of more than 88% in grand larceny and a 50% increase in felony assaults. They involved people like Anthonia Egegbara, who is charged with pushing a 42-year-old woman into a moving Uptown 3 train as it was pulling in.

Police said she has been busted three times for assault.

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Some members of the MTA board say the answer may be in looking at fare evasion because they say fare evasion leads to more crime.

“Technically, the people that are committing crimes are not paying their fares. So if you stop them at the turnstile, you’ve not only stopped a big hemorrhage of money, but you’ve also stopped crime,” board member Andrew Albert said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio insists the NYPD has surged cops on the trains and that it has been a deterrent.

“We’ll keep doing that whenever we need to and wherever we need to,” de Blasio said.

And here’s another startling statistic — hate crimes against Asians on the subway have climbed 238% this year.

All of this comes as the MTA has seen solid ridership increases. It’s now at 55% of the 8 million who took buses and subways before the pandemic, officials say.

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As ridership has increased, so have arrests. They’re up 256% over last year.

Marcia Kramer