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MTA replacing every subway light with LEDs to fight crime

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has a bright idea for fighting skyrocketing subway crime — and it starts with $21 million in lightbulbs.

Agency officials on Tuesday announced a push to replace every old fluorescent fixture in subway stations citywide with brighter LED models, claiming it will scare off would-be criminals and help security cameras record reliable video of wrongdoing.

“By upgrading the lighting at each of our 472 subway stations, we are not only making our stations brighter and safer for customers, but also reducing our costs and emissions,” New York City Transit President Richard Davey said in a statement.

The MTA has already upgraded the Bergen Street, Carroll Street and Lafayette Avenue stops in Brooklyn, the statement said.

“It’s simple: a brighter station is a safer station,” Davey said, adding that customer feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

The MTA has announced it will replace every old, fluorescent-bulb light fixture with brighter LEDs by 2026. Daniel William Mcknight

But of the straphangers interviewed by The Post at stations with the new lights on Wednesday haven’t actually seen a difference.

“I didn’t notice at all,” said Andrew Halitski, a 43-year-old who gets off at Bergen Street every day to toss pies at nearby La Rose Pizza on Smith Street.

“I think better than brighter lights would be more consistent police presence.”

The MTA’s move comes as recent NYPD statistics showed that subway crime has shot up in the past two months, with the nearly 20% increase driven primarily by big surges in grand larcenies, felony assaults and robberies.

Mayor Eric Adams said this week that the NYPD would quickly move to 12-hour tours to stem the burgeoning crime wave, which he blamed on the rollback of a safety plan that flooded the underground with cops in 2022.

Still, crime experts say the MTA’s lightbulb initiative is worthwhile, too.

The agency said the brighter lights will deter crime and help security cameras capture crimes more clearly. Christopher Sadowski
The MTA will replace every light in every station by 2026, officials said this week. Daniel William Mcknight

Good lighting is an integral part of any security plan, according to Brian Higgins, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former Bergen County, NJ, police chief.

“Lighting is a big element,” Higgins told The Post on Wednesday. “It can be a psychological deterrent … those lower lit areas where people can kind of congregate and hide — they’ll be easier to see and detect. They’ll also help any cameras that are having low-light issues.”

He also said it may make riders feel safer — although not all straphangers leaned that way Wednesday.

“You can see a little bit more, I guess … So it’ll probably make it easier for thieves to spot what you’re carrying,” said Spencer Adams, a 31-year-old bartender who lives in Carroll Gardens, and was oblivious to the change before The Post clued him in.

“Are these the new lights? It looks the same,” he said. “I didn’t notice at all. And I’m here every day.”

Adams went on to say he’d heard about the new bulbs, and worried that their sometimes-harsh white light would make the station “look like a hospital.”

LEDs are more energy efficient, meaning the agency will also save on costs.
The Post interviewed nearly three dozen straphangers. Few said they noticed a difference. Christopher Sadowski

Others took comfort from the cold glare of the new bulbs.

“It does make me feel a little safer,” said Suzie Pratt, a 22-year-old student. “Even when it’s dark outside, at least it’s not dark down here.”

“I think at night is when you really see and feel the difference in the lights,” she said. “I would say it’s a good investment.” 

The new energy-efficient bulbs will last longer and use less electricity, which MTA officials said will save about $6 million a year after the system’s 150,000 lights are entirely changed over by mid-2026.

The new white lights will also help the system’s 15,000 surveillance cameras capture crimes and suspects in detail, the MTA statement said.

Another straphanger — who identified himself only as Navin — told The Post he wasn’t convinced bright lights would make any difference.

“I think people are going to commit a crime whether it’s bright, dark, sunny or raining,” he said. “Criminals will commit crimes when they want to.” 

“If the city thinks it will be effective, then hey, let’s give it a try,” he continued. “But personally … I don’t know.” 

Written by SaleemBaloch

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