Assaults on New York City Transit workers continue to be a serious problem as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepares to swear in an additional 500 police officers later this month.
On Dec. 21 at around 10:30 a.m. at the 69th Street subway station on the No. 7 line in Queens, an unidentified 39-year-old female Train Conductor was punched in the face by an unknown male assailant who immediately fled the scene.
‘Arrest This Criminal’
The victim was taken to Lenox Hill Healthplex Hospital with swelling and pain to her face, according to the NYPD.
“This criminal needs to be arrested and held responsible,” Tony Utano, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, said in a statement. “Prosecutors have to do their part in deterring these cowardly unprovoked attacks on transit workers by aggressively prosecuting these cases.”
“This attack was appalling, unprovoked and unacceptable,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford said in a statement. “The conductor was simply doing her job when she was punched and spat on without warning. What kind of person does that? NYC Transit is fully cooperating with the NYPD investigation, and when the perpetrator is caught will seek aggressive prosecution with maximum consequences under the law.”
Earlier in the month, another MTA Conductor needed stitches to his face after a rider slammed a door into his face on a northbound J train during a stop at the Broad Street station in Lower Manhattan on Dec. 2.
A few days earlier, three MTA workers were attacked in two separate Manhattan incidents just two hours apart.
Assaults Up 39%
In September, Local 100 released statistics that documented a 39-percent spike in assaults from the prior year. In 2018 there were 102 serious assaults and the union projected that by the end of 2019 there would be 130.
No more-recent statistics were available.
Assaulting an MTA employee is a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
In August, a video went viral of a man and a woman brutally beating a 62-year-old Conductor at the Grant Ave. station in Brooklyn after the 17-year veteran announced that his A train would be making only express stops. A third suspect tried to pull the conductor out of his compartment.
After a joint MTA and Local 100 press conference called to address the issue, rank and file members claimed that the official data did not present the full extent of the problem. They said members were generally reluctant to report incidents if they didn’t require medical treatment.
‘Embarrassed to Report’
“The ramifications of dealing with that and all the process of getting interviewed and stuff—a lot of my brothers and sisters, especially the women, are embarrassed to report a lot of the stuff that is going on,” said Felix Olivia, a Local 100 Bus Operator.
“A lot of the time, the really difficult situation is when you come to the end of the line, and as a Conductor it’s your job to get them off the train and you can’t wake them, and if you do, they might spit at you or assault you,” Crystal Young, Local 100 Chair of the Conductor and Tower Division, said in an interview last year. She said members were in a Catch-22 situation regarding reporting these incidents. “We had a Conductor report someone spit in his face and management sent him down for drug-testing, so it just makes you less inclined to report anything.”
Mr. Olivia said one of the most disconcerting developments was the willingness of some members of the public to videotape the beating-down of his colleagues for entertainment, without offering any aid or assistance to the employee.
In September, the NYPD reported increases in four major crime categories in the subway system.
Violent Crimes Up
By August, there had been two murders and two rapes, compared to one killing and no rapes over the same period in 2018. Over the same period, both robberies (309) and felony assaults (233) increased slightly.
Hate crimes nearly doubled over that period, going from 32 to 62, up 94 percent between the first eight months of 2018 and last year.
Yet final statistics released Jan. 6 by the NYPD showed major transit-system crime down, with 273 logged in 2018 compared to 257 last year.
In June, Governor Cuomo ordered plans to deploy an additional 500 police officers, including NYPD and MTA police as a kind of surge into locations where officials had flagged both fare-evasion and worker assaults.
“The fare-evasion hot spots, the station and bus routes that are the targeted locations for the highest incidence of fare-evasion correspond with the stations and bus routes where we have seen assaults on MTA workers,” he told reporters. “So, there are 100 hot spots…50 subway stations and 50 bus routes, which will be the primary deployment for these 500 officers.”
When asked by this newspaper if they felt any safer after the deployment, Local 100 rank-and-file members said the presence of additional officers was welcomed but that generally the cops clustered around the turnstiles, not on the platforms or in the trains where the assaults generally occur.
Last month, the MTA board approved the hiring of an additional 500 MTA officers who will be sworn in later this month.
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