The MBTA May Be Broke, But Crime on Public Transit Is Down

While serious crimes saw a significant drop, smartphone thefts continue to be an issue.


Photo via Flickr by 192020

The MBTA’s dilapidated, withering trains may be cause for concern for some riders as doors are reportedly malfunctioning and frequent technical issues are causing delays. But when it comes to crime on the transit system, the last few months have been pretty safe by comparison to last year.

According to statistics released by the MBTA Transit Police on Thursday, overall violent crimes, called Part 1 crimes, are down 33 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. From January 1 through March 31, 2013, police saw a “significant drop” in Part 1 crimes, which includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson.

Statistics released by transit officials show that aggravated assaults on the MBTA dropped by 23 percent compared to 2012, from 40 to 31 reported incidents. Larcenies on the transit system saw the most dramatic dip, however, down nearly 50 percent compared to 2012, from 163 to 84 reported incidents. While the majority of serious crimes were lower, there was one rape and one homicide reported in the first quarter, both an increase in comparison to zero incidents during the same period in 2012.

One area where MBTA officials are seeing a persistent problem is the theft of smartphones and mobile devices. MBTA Police Chief Paul MacMillan said the department is trying to tackle this trend—one that’s happening across the country—known as “Apple Picking” for it’s common association with Apple devices.

Police reminded riders to keep their electronic devices close as criminals are likely to snatch a smartphone or tablet when someone is nearby the open doors of an MBTA train. In January, Transit Police posted tips online for riders to follow after 20 phone robberies were reported in the span of one month. Police said at the time 13 of those robberies “involved the theft or attempted theft of either an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.”

“We are committed to reduce robberies on the MBTA and have made numerous arrests for this crime. There are also a number of apps that can be downloaded to allow phones to be tracked should a theft take place,” the department said in the statement.