NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – The MTA wants an additional 1,000 NYPD officers to be deployed to the city’s transit system "immediately" after a subway stabbing spree left two people dead in a 14-hour period on Friday and Saturday, the latest in what transit officials called a "disturbing trend" of violence on subways and buses.
The 1,000 NYPD officers would be in addition to the 500 officers already being deployed to the subway system. The NYPD announced the “surge” of 500 NYPD officers on Saturday as police were searching for the attacker in the stabbing spree.
A 21-year-old Brooklyn man was charged with murder Sunday in connection with the attacks on the A line.
But MTA Chairman Pat Foye and NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said Sunday that another 1,000 NYPD officers are needed for the subway and bus systems.
Foye and Feinberg wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Sunday in which they requested the additional officers and noted the "tragic and shocking crime spree that occurred on the A line."
“We believe the additional 500 officers you agreed to dedicate to the subway system is an important first step, which will help ease the fears of customers and the heroic transit workers who serve this city every day,” they wrote.
“We believe more is needed, however, and so we are writing today to request an additional 1,000 NYPD officers be assigned to the Transit Bureau to patrol subways and buses immediately,” they continued.
Foye and Feinberg said they’d like to see teams of uniformed officers in every station and riding subway trains and buses during the day and overnights “to ensure the safety of our customers and colleagues.”
“The fact is that we all see a disturbing trend above ground and below ground, which as you know began prior to the pandemic, and now has been exacerbated by the acute mental health crisis we are facing,” they said.
Foye and Feinberg said ridership is down 70% in the subway and 50% on buses, but felony assaults have increased 26.5%.
“Assaults on our workers, from harassment and threats to physical violence, continue to occur far too often,” they said. “Every single one of these occurrences is one too many.”
They’re also calling for additional mental health resources, including that the 311 service be expanded to the transit system.
De Blasio hadn't responded to the letter publicly as of Sunday evening. On Saturday, he said, "Safe and reliable transit is critical to our city’s recovery, and we’ll continue to do all we can to keep our subways safe for straphangers across the five boroughs."
The plea from the MTA comes not only after the stabbing spree, but after a number of widely reported violent crimes in the transit system in recent weeks that saw riders slashed and pushed onto tracks. Last week, a woman was pushed off a subway platform in the Bronx and an MTA bus driver was knocked unconscious with a piece of wood in Brooklyn.
Two more apparently random subway attacks were reported Sunday, sources told the New York Post.
A 63-year-old man was attacked by a knife-wielding man at the 1/2/3 Chambers Street station in lower Manhattan around 2 p.m., according to the report.
An hour before that, a rider was attacked with a padlock at the 42nd Street–Bryant Park/Fifth Avenue station in midtown Manhattan, the sources said.
Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, echoed calls for an increased police presence in a statement Sunday.
“Nobody feels safe in the subway. Not the riders and certainly the not workers. There were 18 assaults upon transit workers in the subway in January – compared to 10 in January of last year,” Utano said.
“We have consistently called on Mayor de Blasio to add more police to the subway. He finally responded. That’s a good step, but this has to be a long-time assignment, not a quick flash in the pan,” Utano said. “We need police officers in uniform, very visible, throughout stations. They need to be seen on the platforms and trains regularly.”
Utano also called on the MTA to “immediately and publicly drop its plan to close subway station booths and leave them unstaffed for many hours every day and night.”
“Station agents in the booth are an extra set of eyes and ears for the police,” Utano said, noting that when a person was stabbed on the A line in Queens during this weekend's spree, a witness ran to a booth to call police.
“If the MTA plan goes forward, that booth could have been shuttered and empty,” Utano said.