The weather is starting to warm up. Spring is in full bloom and Summer is right on its heel. Millions of people have been vaccinated. Since COVID appears to be dropping off and as the cities around the state begin to open, most people are anxiously waiting to be able to fully move about the city. However, with the city opening and people returning to work after working remotely for over a year, getting there is more than a challenge. It is a matter of life and death! What makes me say this?
There is danger down under in New York City subways! There’s a growing concern about crime in the city’s subway system and not enough protection underground to make riders like myself, feel safe. Though crime is always a possibility on the New York City subway, a recent rash of particularly vicious attacks on riders and transit workers has fueled fears that the sprawling underground system — a mainstay of urban life — is more dangerous than it has been in years and threatens to undermine the city’s recovery.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about Asian hate crimes highlighting the brutal attacks waged upon them. Not to say that these crimes have been overshadowed by what’s occurring now in the city, but it seems that everyone is at risk, no matter the age, above ground, and down below.
Comparing the current level of crime to past years is difficult given the very low ridership during the pandemic. However, as ridership begins to increase, so have assaults and fear of those who use the subway to get to where they need to go. I’m nervous on the platforms to and from work. Do I wait for the train at the end of the station closest to my exit, or stand in the middle of the platform where there are more people? The answer is it really doesn’t matter. You can stand anywhere or sit anywhere and out of nowhere, you may be punched in the face, push onto the tracks, slashed, spit on, or worse. No matter where you are, whether it’s the platform or on the train, you can be a target for assault.
Tracking the Numbers
Some riders have described being assaulted, harassed, or menaced by strangers. Others have started carrying Mace and waiting by security cameras. Many have found themselves in deserted cars and stations, glancing nervously over their shoulders. Some no longer ride at night or off-hours. Riders know how dangerous things have gotten. Two out of every three riders have yet to return to the subway. (WABC) reported overall, transit crime is down by 40%. But violent crime is skyrocketing. It’s up 25% so far this year, 82% for the past 28 days, and up 140% in the past seven days. The subways saw 2.12. major felonies per million riders in February 2020, the last “normal” month on record. Felony assaults, meanwhile, have jumped since last year — up to 40 last month compared to 30 the previous March. Assaults have jumped 8.2 percent on the year, according to NYPD stats.
Subway Crime Snapshot
In February 2021, two straphangers met their gruesome end on the city’s subways bringing the transit-murder total in just over a year to eight. Before 2020 and 2021, it took five years for eight murders to occur on transit — and that was with much higher ridership. A 2-year-old child was randomly struck in the face in Lower Manhattan by a male carrying a 20-pound suitcase.
A transit conductor said an unhinged rider ranted and cursed at him while smoking on the train. As the conductor walked toward the bottom of a ramp leading to a set of stairs, he says he looked back and saw the man take what appeared to be a razor blade out of his pocket and run towards him. Officials say the conductor had to run into a token booth to take cover after the suspect spat at him.
On April 28, 2021, Raoul Rivas. 37, a construction worker, went to accompany his girlfriend home from work on the subway — because, at the late-night hour of 8 p.m., he thought it was dangerous; he got stabbed in the stomach. He said a man screamed at them for no reason. As they got off the train in the Bronx, the man rushed forward with a knife, stabbing Mr. Rivas five times.
Then there was a 44-year-old woman and an adult man, who was stabbed to death by an apparent stranger on two separate A trains. Two others were assaulted in the same 24 hours, possibly by the same attacker. I woke up today, May 20th to a news report of the latest attacks. A 54-year-old woman standing on a Union Square subway platform was ambushed in a blindsided attack by a 22-year-old man. She was slashed across her left shoulder, left collarbone area, and upper chest.
Also, on this same day and at the Fulton Street Manhattan station I enter and exit for work, authorities launched a search for a man accused of slashing another man at the Lower Manhattan subway station. I pray for traveling mercies every day!
One time as I was on my way home on the train, a man started screaming at passengers. The man then appeared to reach inside his jacket. In the past, I would ignore this and chalk it up as just another day in NYC! But now, you never know if they have a gun, knife, or some other weapon waiting to attack you.
City Officials Say What?
City officials like NYC’s Mayor Bill de Blasio and transit leaders have clashed over whether subway crime has actually gotten worse or even exist. The mayor went so far as to say that the subway is absolutely safe and indicated his adult children ride the trains all the time. He called himself demonstrating the safety by taking the subway and “riding one stop.” Big Whoop! That was then. Now, de Blasio, has come under intense pressure from New York’s Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and transit officials to do more to keep riders and workers safe. He has since announced that he would deploy 250 more police officers to the subway. Still, the mayor and city police officials insist that the subway is safe and that worries about crime are overblown. Is it a mental health issue? That a story for another time.
The Last Stop
As municipal employees like me return to work, others have put in reasonable accommodations requests to continue to work remotely because of COVID fears and now, fear of riding the trains and being attacked. The NYPD issued a statement on fighting subway crime stating: “The New York City Police Department, on a day-to-day basis, remains flexible and ever prepared to reallocate its personnel to respond to any upticks in crime.
Let’s see how it all plays out. All I know is that riders have to feel safe and making the subway system safer is an important component of getting New Yorkers back to riding trains and safe to move about without feeling fear and anxiety each time they step onto a subway platform or train!
NYC is a beautiful and exciting city, but like other cities, we have our share of crime. Where ever you live and to all the visitors and residents, don’t have tunnel vision. Stay alert and stay safe above and underground!