Welcome aboard the “muggers’ express” train

If you weren’t around to experience it yourself, you’ve probably heard all about the New York City subway system in the 1970s: gritty, practically bankrupt, and a lot more dangerous than it is today.

Muggersexpress1973wiki

How bad was it? In 1978 alone, there were nine murders on the subway. By 1979, felonies occurred on trains and in stations at a rate of 250 incidents each week.

Muggersexpress4trainwikiCity officials were so alarmed by the number of thefts, beatings, and murders underground, Mayor Ed Koch responded by having a uniformed cop ride every train that ran between 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

But one subway line had a dicier reputation than the others. The IRT Lexington Avenue line—today’s 4, 5, and 6 trains—earned the nickname the “muggers’ express” because so many passengers were robbed on board.

Muggersexpressarticle

Some sources have it that only the 4 train was the muggers’ express. It’s hard to say if the 4 was worse than the 5 or 6, though; all three lines went through some pretty rough neighborhoods in Manhattan and the Bronx, and the 4 and 5 went deep into Brooklyn too, just as they do today.

[Top photo: Jim Pickerell/US National Archives and Records Administration; second photo: UPI; third photo: Wikipedia]

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15 Responses to “Welcome aboard the “muggers’ express” train”

  1. Will Says:

    those were rough times.

    taking the subway to Yankee stadium back than was an adventure. lol

    quite frankly, taking any subway after 11pm was a crap shoot.

  2. Welcome To 1970s New York City: Riding The 'Muggers’ Express' Train - Flashbak Says:

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  3. James Says:

    I escaped from Brooklyn in1974 after receiving a job offer and never looked back. I lived in Clinton Hill were a friend was murdered in 1977. My mother, a grandmother, was accosted in downtown Brooklyn by a “ethnic fundraiser ” because she refused to pay him.
    The trip on the GG line was chancy. The walk from the train exit to the street exit was underground and a block long and mostly deserted after 8:00 PM. I really walked very fast to get to my street exit on Washington Avenue.

    One morning on the way to Manhattan I overheard a young woman pleading to a follow passenger to STOP. A fellow was feeling her breast. The car was jammed with people. She could not get away. At the next stop I had a chance to grab and pull him away from the woman. An exit door open and he fell off and out onto the platform on his back. The woman disappeared. The fellow got back on the train and accused me of assaulting him. I got off off at the next stop and lost him.

    About a week later on the way to Manhattan a woman pelted me with peanut shells. She had a large plastic bag filled with peanuts.
    She would reach into the bag, select a peanut, bite off the top, shake the peanuts into her mouth and throw the shell at me. At first I thought the shells were being blown by the wind until her aim improved and a shell hit me on the forehead. I got off the train and went into Gimbels on 34th st. She followed me into the store. I got rid of her by ducking in the Men’s Room and going out another exit.

    I understand that the city has improved and Brooklyn has changed but I doubt If it has improved sufficiently.

  4. realeyezlife Says:

    I was around in those day (born in 1966)..I took the train every single day from the age of 9 years old (school and back) and never once did I pay the fare until the age of 18..”why should I” was my thinking “if I am risking my life”..but then again, the fares were only 50 cents back then..and the secret trick that my father taught me as a child was very simple…Carry 2 wallets – one wallet with a few bucks and another one with most of your money and cards..and if you get mugged take out the wallet with a few bucks and throw it on the ground and run the opposite way” worked every time for me..Worked so well that I would laugh at the mugger as I fled the station that I had another wallet with tons of money” they hated me!

  5. J T Nichols Says:

    I used to pick up my girlfriend on park ave and we’d take the train up to 189th st. At least close–cant remember the stop. Never had a problem on tbe subway–but i did carry a machete in my gym bag a lot of the time..

  6. james votinelli Says:

    the city was taken over by the animals and the liberal government gave them everything free of charge!It all was the citys own fault! Jack up the rents and the animals will leave! It is simple!

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