Commentary on Political Economy

Sunday 10 March 2024


Armed Troops on the New York City Subways

Updated March 9, 2024 5:50 pm ET

Members of the New York National Guard patrol the subway at Grand Central Terminal, New York, March 7. Photo: timothy a. clary/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Here’s a poser to consider for 2025: What if Donald Trump is elected again and decides to send the military to prevent crime or control riots in America’s streets? Wouldn’t half of America lose its collective mind about the supposed threat to democracy?

Yet that’s essentially what New York Gov. Kathy Hochul did this week in dispatching the state National Guard to patrol New York City’s subways to reduce crime. The Democratic Governor is sending 750 troops and 250 state police officers to guard subway trains and platforms amid a spike in violence and robbery against passengers.

No doubt many New Yorkers will be relieved at the sight, even if it will be somewhat disconcerting to see men in military fatigues on the trains. We know from experience it’s reassuring to see NYPD blue in a subway car when a homeless man is harassing passengers for money or because he’s drugged up.


Ms. Hochul is also calling for judges to have more authority to ban people from the subways if they’ve assaulted commuters or subway workers. She wants to add security cameras, and Mayor Eric Adams said this week he’s asked New York police to expand bag searches on the subways.

This is progress after the denial that has prevailed for years among the city’s ruling Democrats. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio and progressives started the downhill slide when they waged political war on cops, on stop and frisk policing, and on the enforcement of offenses against civilized norms.

Yet sending in the military to protect mass transit is also in some sense a sign of societal and political surrender. It means that New York has concluded that it can’t protect its citizens with a normal police presence, or with the laws against vagrancy that once prevailed, or with prosecutors who used to put people in jail for crimes against public order. So send in the guys with assault rifles.

We’ll see how long Ms. Hochul keeps the Guard underground, but it can’t be forever. The real solution is to fire progressive district attorneys and revive the anti-crime policies that worked so well in the 1990s and 2000s. But that would mean taking on the Democratic left, which she refuses to do.

Wonder Land: Progressive policy decisions on—among other things—crime, higher education and migrants are hurting Americans. And President Biden gets the blame. Images: AFP/Getty Images/Reuters/Bloomberg News Composite: Mark Kelly


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