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Transcript: Mayor Adams Appears Live On CBS News New York’s Streaming Network

March 6, 2024

Mary Calvi: Subway riders are about to deal with something they haven't seen in nearly 20 years: random bag checks.

Cindy Hsu: Mayor Eric Adams making that bold announcement after a series of violent attacks on the subway in recent weeks have left riders uneasy. His Honor and Chief of Transit Michael Kemper are live with us now to discuss how this will be implemented. Thank you both for joining us.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. And if I could just mention at the top of the weather, we are going to have heavy rain, so we ask commuters to be safe as they commute to and from work.

Yes, we are instituting random bag checks, and they're random. They're not profiling, they are random. But that is part of our overall plan. We left 2023 with crime being down in our subway system. January was a bad month due to grand larcenies where people, slush workers, slashing the pockets of individuals when they're sleeping.

But our real problem is, as I've been saying all morning, we have a recidivist problem. When you look at the subway system, we have 38 people who were arrested for assaulting just transit workers, they committed 1,126 crimes in our city. And even above ground, 542 people who were arrested for shoplifting committed 7,600 crimes in our city.

What the police must do, they must apprehend. But there's other parts of the criminal justice system that must also be part of the overall plan for public safety. So, the bag checks, the cameras, the police enforcement, all of those things, the investments we made end of January of 1,000 cops in our system is part of our overall plan to make people feel safe and be safe.

Calvi: And we understand you'll have 94 bag screening teams assigned to the 136 stations. That's about a third of the 472. How were those stations chosen, and will the teams be moving around?

Chief Michael Kemper, Transit, Police Department: Listen, how they're is a host of ways. It could be from ridership to conditions going on. Let me say this also. Those bag checks offer so much value.

I mean, you know, including with what they're doing, checking bags to make sure explosive or illegal weapons aren't entering our subway system, it's also creating another sense of presence that our riders welcome so much.

Just the uniform presence adds so much value. And when people come into a subway system, they want to see the cop. It sets the tone of law and order immediately the minute our riders walk into the subway system.

I want to say this also. The presence in the subway system has increased by upwards of a thousand cops a day thanks to the Police Commissioner Caban. And that investment— as was just mentioned— is paying dividends. But I don't want to public to misinterpret what we're saying.

We clearly recognize that we still have a lot of work to do. Trust me, we recognize that. But our cops are committed, they're focused and they're out there every day working very, very hard.

Now, what are the consequences for those who are searched and something is found? And I ask because there are riders who say they carry pepper spray or legal tasers for their own protection. So, how can you assure them they're going to still feel safe?

Chief Kemper: So, depending on what's found. I mean, obviously, if an illegal weapon or a bomb is found— God forbid— there's going to be enforcement on that. But listen, you know, hypotheticals are hypotheticals. Each situation is different. If you know, certainly we follow the law. If what's found is illegal, there will be police action. But again, this is all to advance public safety in the subway system.

Calvi: And Mayor Adams, there have been numerous violent incidents lately. This weekend alone, a man was kicked on to the tracks, a pregnant woman was attacked. The NYPD pointing out that subway crime was actually down 15 percent last month, but overall compared to last year. Can you elaborate on those numbers and put it into perspective for New Yorkers?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think Chief Kemper stated it well. We're not happy until we don't have any of those average of I think 6.5, 6.6 felonies a day out of the four million riders. We don't want any on our subway system.

But riders should know, with over four million riders a day, when I'm in the subway system and I talk to commuters and riders, they state that they have uneventful events every time they commute back and forth.

We focus on removing those who are dealing with mental health illness, we focus on those who are committing crime, enforcement of those dealing with quality of life because we want riders to actually be safe based on the numbers, but you have to feel safe in the system because I know how it plays on your psyche when you hear about some random acts of violence, and that's why we must be proactive to prevent those acts of violence.

And mayor, when you took office, you said you wanted weapons screening systems at subways. Why has it taken this long, and are there companies that fit the bill?

Mayor Adams: You know, technology. We have scanned the globe, but when we put out that challenge to the tech industry, I was surprised, within one year, we started to see some good items come online and good research, what we call R&D— Research and Development— but it has to be right.

We're not going to put out a product that could be only 60 percent right, we're looking for 99.9 percent right. But we're excited. We have seen some promising products and we're looking, once they can pass that level of smell test for us, we want to see them rolled out in our subway system.

Calvi: And Chief Kemper, we know more officers were deployed in January due to the crime spike. Will that change, if at all?

Chief Kemper: Yes, so listen, as we sit here right now today, there's going to be upwards of 1,000 additional cops. I want to get this out also, that there's cops out there in plain clothes, and our riders need to understand that also. So, the person you're sitting next to on the train and the person you're walking by the mezzanine, that might just be a cop.

But listen, there are no plans as of right now to downsize or reduce that. We are focused with what we have right now; and to be quite frank, we're encouraged with the results we saw in February.

Mayor Adams: And our investment, the investment the city made with 1,000 police offers, changing to 12‑hour tours and having that real omnipresence of police personnel, we went from that terrible month in January where we saw the increase based on grand larcenies, the slush workers, to a 15 percent drop in February.

And we're going to continue to drive that. That was the success we saw in 2023. Crime is down and jobs are up and tourists are back, and we're going to continue to let New Yorkers know we have the best police department on the globe.

Now, Governor Hochul is announcing her Subway Safety Plan this morning. What do you want to see from her; and, should the National Guard be deployed to help the mentally ill get services?

Mayor Adams: Well, she has been a real partner on this issue from when we rolled out the Subway Safety Plan and we saw the results from that. Whatever resources the governor wants to assist us with, if it's the National Guard to help with those with mental health illness, we welcome that.

That partnership that we've had with her is so important, because these are her communities as much as they are my communities. I'm in that system a lot and I speak to New Yorkers, and having those who are committing random acts of violence far too often they're connected to those who are dealing with severe mental health illness.

Calvi: And mayor, when it comes to these bag checks, when does it start, when will commuters start seeing that?

Chief Kemper: So, I'll answer that question. Commuters already started seeing that, we're out there. All right, and they're going to continue. They're going to be a seven day week operation in all the boroughs, the subway system has to, that the subway system serves. And again, this is all to advance public safety.

Calvi: Mayor Eric Adams and Chief of Transit Michael Kemper. Thank you very much for taking some time to talk to us this morning.

We appreciate it.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Take care.

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