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At least 45 New York City workers and police officers have been assaulted in the subways so far in 2022, while stabbing and slashing attacks on straphangers have jumped more than 70% year-to-date and crimes in transit as a whole increased 65% compared to 2021, officials said Monday.
New York City Transit Chief Jason Wilcox said police executives were “deeply concerned” by recent crime statistics, which showed 20 Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees and 25 cops have been assaulted so far this year in the subway system. Overall crime arrests are up 63% this year compared to 2021, and the New York Police Department has executed an estimated 60% of arrests in connection with the assaults on city workers, Wilcox said during an MTA board meeting on Monday.
New York City Police Department personnel gather at the entrance to a subway stop in Brooklyn on April 12, 2022. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
But while certain crimes – larcenies and robberies, among others – are now lower than pre-COVID levels, “the same cannot be said for felony assaults, where we see a continued increase over time,” Wilcox said.
“We have seen an increase in the area of 33% this year in felony assaults when compared to 2021. It accounts for about 29% of our total major crime picture,” he went on. “The multiple shootings assaults on 36th Street have affected this increase, but there are other driving forces as well.”
On April 12, 62-year-old Frank James entered a subway passing through Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where he placed a gas mask on his face, deployed a smoke bomb and opened fire. The shooting left 29 people injured, including 10 who were shot, officials said.
James is now being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal detention facility in Brooklyn. He has been charged with one count of committing a terrorist or other violent attack against a mass transportation system, and faces up to life in prison if convicted.
As for the 70% year-to-date increase in stabbings and slashing incidents, Wilcox said such types of assaults account for 39% of the MTA’s total crime.
“Way too many,” he said. So far this year, cops have made 230 arrests for subway stabbings and slashings. And assaults with objects, including a stick, a cane, a hammer, among other kinds, have jumped 48% year-to-date, he said.
“Many of these assault incidents have started as a dispute, a bump, a shove, a shoe stepped on or an argument over a seat that then quickly escalated to violence,” Wilcox went on.
The subway chief warned subway riders to be wary of purse and cellphone snatchers.
As of Sunday, total subway crime was up 65% year to date, 706 to 427, the NYPD said.
Meanwhile, amid Mayor Eric Adams’ push for subway safety, 67 newly-minted NYPD officers have been assigned to the subway training unit and will ultimately be tasked with patrolling the transit system.
A commuter talks to a police officer with a dog on Jan. 18, 2022, at the Times Square subway station where Michelle Go was killed after being pushed onto subway tracks on Jan. 15. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)
Adams has pushed for New Yorkers to return to riding the subways and to working in their city offices. Dr. Dorothy Schulz, a former captain for MTA-Metro North Railroad Police, previously told Fox News Digital she expected that high-profile crime events in the subways would likely make Adams’ efforts, “a little bit harder” to achieve.
But she said people are likely more frightened of the “day-to-day kinds of events.”
“People who live in New York are not naive, and they know that things happen. But the things are, your pocket gets picked or somebody curses at you or spits at you or something,” Schulz, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, continued. “There’s a level of expectation.”