New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – The Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York (MTA) is asking the New York Police Department for beefed up presence in the subways following an increase in attacks on workers there.
Recently, officials said, one subway worker was traumatized when a man attacked her subway booth with a cinderblock. Video of the event shows where the reinforced glass was shattered after being hit several times with the cinderblock. The worker in the incident said the sound was so loud she thought someone had fired at the glass with a gun.
When police arrested the man, officers found him armed with a large knife as well. The worker told NBC New York she wondered what the suspect would have done if he had been able to get through the glass.
Leaders with the Transit Workers Union 100 say that incident is part of a spike in violence against subway and other transit workers. According to the union, there have been nearly 100 incidents of harassment or assault since the start of 2021.
In February, MTA and the union sent a letter to New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio asking for more help. According to the MTA, while ridership is down – 70 percent on the subway, 50 percent on buses – assaults on transit workers are up.
Data from MTA shows that 58 NYC transit workers reported being physically attacked between January and July 2020. In comparison, during the same time in 2019, when the agency saw about 4 million more passengers, only 53 transit workers reported being assaulted.
Last July during the pandemic, bus driver Anthony Reid asked a man on his Brooklyn bus to wear a mask. In response, the man hit him in the back of his head, leaving him with a broken bone near his eye and a busted lip.
In February of this year, an MTA bus driver was knocked unconscious by a passenger. After the passenger spit on him, the driver came out from behind their partition to confront them. The passenger hit him with the 2×4 causing him to lose consciousness.
Since the start of 2021, MTA officials said, there have been 170 attacks on transit workers.
The union and the MTA have called on the NYPD to do more than add roughly 500 additional officers in recent months.
But, NYPD’s Transit Chief suggests the agency and the union are wrong.
“It’s a disservice to New Yorkers to advance a narrative that crime is soaring on the subways when that is simply not the case. Crime is at record lows at almost every category,” Chief Kathleen O’Reilly told MTA board members at a recent meeting.
MTA board members said the lower rider numbers has to be taken into consideration. Board members also said, according to NBC New York, that subway crime in 2021 is double that of 2019.
“Our riders don’t feel safe, right? And unless our riders feel safe, they’re not gonna come back into the system,” said MTA board member Haeda Mihaltses on a video call.
But for workers, the attacks are real and increasing. For the MTA worker whose booth was attacked, as well as another employee who witnessed the event, the attack traumatized them too much. Both remain on leave, reports indicate.