By John Dias

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – People are returning to the subway, but with ridership up, the MTA says so is crime.

There’s now debate within the agency over how to fix the problem.

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“If you liked the 70s, you love what it is right now. Its gone right back to the 70s, without the good music,” a straphanger named Joel said.

As CBS2’s John Dias reports, take it from a lifelong New Yorker, many riding the rails these days don’t feel as safe as they used to.

“We had 20 years of a safe city and now we went to the bad old days,” Joel said.

“Everyday, there is sometime always going on,” one person said.

(credit: NYPD)

Monday night, a man was hit over the head with a glass bottle at the 28th Street subway station in what police are calling an unprovoked attack. The NYPD also released surveillance video of a man wanted in connection for a stabbing at the West 4th Street subway station earlier this month.

The two recent violent crimes don’t even factor into the latest jump in last month’s stats.

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

Porteous reported to the MTA board about a 58.6% increase in major crimes last month, which included an increase of more than 88% in grand larceny and a 50% increase in felony assaults.

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Some board members believe the answer is looking at fare evasion.

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

But NYC Transit Interim President Craig Cipriano says that’s not a viable solution.

“Fair evasion comes in all shapes, sizes and demographics, so I wouldn’t pin point a specific type of person,” Cipriano said.

Cipriano admits homelessness is a major problem, made worse by the pandemic but insists increased police presence and extra security cameras will go a long way.

“By all accounts, you’re safer in the subway than anywhere in the city,” Cipriano said.

Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio had this to say:

“We surged officers into the subway, many months ago,” de Blasio said. “Doesn’t mean there won’t be moments when certain types of crime go up again that we have to address, so we will use precision policing.”

All this comes as the MTA has seen an increase in ridership. It’s now at 55% of the eight million who used mass transit before the pandemic.

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John Dias