Today’s news:

Armed robbery up but overall crime down in subways

Although armed robbery rose, crime in the city subway system declined by nearly 3 percent last year.

Police Transit Bureau Commander John Hall joined the New York City Transit Authority Transit Committee Monday to comment on statistics showing an overall decline in subway crime in 2008.

Murder was down from four murders in 2007 to two in 2008 and rape up from one rape to three between 2007 and 2008.

Hall said subway crime was at a “very low point.”

Robbery climbed to 823 last year from 796 robberies in 2007, in part the result of what transit officials called a surge in the last eight weeks of 2008.

Police statistics showed 111 robberies in December, compared with 70 in December 2007.

“We had a string of 13 robberies, including several on the G train, and have three persons charged with three robberies, but suspect they have committed perhaps as many as 13,” Hall said.

The Police Transit Bureau, which patrols subways with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police assigned to commuter railroads, reported 6.3 major felonies per day last year, 7.4 in 2007 and 17 per day in 1997.

Assaults totaled 175, down from 209 in 2007 and 501 in 1997.

It was the third consecutive year that most subway crime categories had declined.

Hall also reported an outbreak of cell phone snatchings on subway trains and platforms.

Hall said thieves have been targeting the latest, most expensive and most technically sophisticated cell phones, such as the T−Mobile Sidekick.

Hall said he had assigned officers equipped with bullhorns aboard trains and platforms to warn straphangers to watch out for phone snatchers, a campaign he said was still going on.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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