Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican candidate for New York City mayor, says the number of sex crimes on the city’s subway system has increased since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014.
"People are packed in like sardines," Malliotakis said in a new television ad, "and subway sex crimes are up over 50 percent."
Sex crimes refer to acts of a sexual nature on the subway, like touching someone without consent or public lewdness.
Riding the subway has been less than pleasant lately, with frequent delays and occasional equipment failures.
But is Malliotakis right when she says riding the subway has become more dangerous as well?
The ad cites an article from The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website. The article used a report from State Sen. Diane Savino’s office to support a claim that sex crimes on the subway "shot up 51 percent in the past three years."
Savino’s office published the report in June using data from the New York City Police Department. The NYPD confirmed in an email the data is presented accurately in the report.
Some 941 sex crimes were reported on the New York City subway system in 2016, according to the report. There were 738 and 620 sex crimes reported in 2015 and 2014, respectively.
The numbers represent a 51.8 percent increase between 2014 and 2016, with a 27.5 percent increase between 2015 and 2016 alone.
The report also said sex crimes on the subway were up 9 percent in the first five months of 2017 compared with the same time last year.
The number of arrests for sex crimes on the subway was flat from 2014 to 2015, but increased from 403 to 491 in 2016.
The sex crime with the largest reported increase was forcible touching between 2015 and 2016. There were 340 reports of forcible touching in 2015 and 454 in 2016. Reports of public lewdness also increased, but reports of sexual abuse held steady.
Overall, reported crime on the city’s transit system dropped 13.5 percent from 2013 to 2014, but has since increased 7 percent. Total crime in the city has gone down consistently over the past four years.
The data does not necessarily mean more sex crimes happened each year since 2014, just that more have been reported.
The NYPD attributed the spike in those crimes to more people reporting them to police.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that operates the subway, created a website in 2014 for riders to report complaints of sexual misconduct. Users can even attach a photo or short video with their complaint. The submissions are forwarded to police.
"I’m confident that we don’t have more sex crimes happening. We have more women who know that we care, who trust the system, and are willing to make that report," NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox told CBS New York in 2016.
The NYPD has also dispatched more plainclothes police officers on the subway system to monitor for sex crimes.
Malliotakis said "sex crimes are up over 50 percent" on the NYC subway.
The NYPD confirmed the numbers in her claim. She quoted them accurately. But the police agency said there may not be more sex crimes happening, just more reported.
There's no way to know whether more people are committing sex crimes or if there's just better enforcement. For that reason, we're declining to give a ruling on this claim.
"NYC Subways Take Another Hit: Sex Crimes Up 51 Percent In Last Three Years", The Daily Caller, June 7, 2017
Email conversation with Rob Ryan, spokesperson for Malliotakis
Email conversation with press staff from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office
Email conversation with Candice Giove, spokesperson for the Independent Democratic Conference
Email and phone conversations with press staff from the NYPD Public Information Office
"Renewed Efforts to Stop Subway Sex Crimes", New York Times, Feb. 22, 2016
"Perverted Justice: How Subway Grinders Continue to Victimize New Yorkers" Report from State Sen. Diane Savino’s office, June 2017
"Facebook and Twitter Scenes From a Hellish Ride on a Stalled F Train Without Lights or Air-Conditioning", New York Magazine, June 6, 2017
"Cops cracking down on subway sex crimes after adding more plainclothes officers", New York Daily News, July 24, 2014
"Spike In Subway Sex Crimes Is Due To More Victims Choosing To Come Forward, Police Say", CBS New York, Nov. 8, 2016
"Undercover female cops fighting rise in transit sex crimes: NYPD", amNewYork, July 20, 2015