NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Subway riders were on edge Thursday, after further reports of violence on the subway.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the NYPD said it is doing more on trains and around stations.
Cops will be focusing on the overnight hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when most crime takes place.
“It’s about rapid deployment, effective deployment and getting enough officers out there to minimize those things from happening,” NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox said, speaking exclusively with CBS2’s Castro.
Transit crime jumped more than 36 percent in January compared to January 2015.
The NYPD continued to stress that half of all transit crime happens when victims doze off during their ride.
“I mean I fall asleep on the train all the time,” Louis Soto said.
There have been two more reports of violent incidents in the subway as police step up patrols and warn riders about the dangers of dozing off on the train.
Now, officers will wake people up.
“Our message is to be aware of your surroundings, and consider whether you want to be sound asleep,” Fox said.
The most recent incident happened Thursday morning.
As CBSNewYork Web Producer Marta Zielinska was on her way to work, she said she witnessed an assault in Penn Station. She said she saw an apparently homeless man grab a woman waiting for the Downtown No. 1 train and throw her to the platform.
“As I’m walking up the stairs, I see a woman leaning against the pole and a man walking towards both me and her and then he says something to himself and kind of looks over at her and then grabs her by the chest and throws her to the ground,” she said.
She told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern the man then calmly walked away, “as if nothing ever happened.”
Zielinska and other witnesses flagged down police. The victim was shaken, but apparently didn’t suffer any serious injuries.
A witness said she was wearing a backpack which likely prevented her from being more seriously hurt.
Police said a homeless man was taken into custody. Randy Evans, 55, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct, police said.
Most of the homeless in Penn Station obviously keep to themselves, and riders here say they feel helpless to stop violence in the subway.
“You hear stories all the time, but we all live in our own kind of little bubble, trying to get to where we’ve got to get to,” said Claudia Gerena.
“We don’t have a choice, we just have to do what we have to do,” said Murielle Mondesir.
Meanwhile, in an earlier incident Wednesday evening, police said a 37-year-old woman was walking through a turnstile on the uptown R train platform at 49th Street and 7th Avenue she bumped into a man and then felt a sharp pain.
Later that night, she noticed a small puncture wound which doctors say was likely caused by a needle.
“I feel violated,” she told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.
The woman said the man is white with short blond hair, wearing a blue and white plaid sweatshirt and blue jeans. He had a black backpack.
The woman went home and then to a hospital.
“I went to the emergency room. The doctors confirmed that I was punctured with something,” the woman said, “so they started me on HIV antivirals with hepatitis B.”
The latest attacks happened after a dangerous month on the city’s transit system. The NYPD reports overall crime is down 10 percent, but the number of transit assaults jumped to more than 36 percent in January compared to last year.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in half of the cases, the victim was attacked after falling asleep on the train. He is now ordering cops to wake up slumbering straphangers because he said they can be targets.
“I know a whole lot of people are tired, they work very hard, but our officers are going to be instructed to start waking people up,” Bratton said. “You might miss your stop if you’re sleeping, you might lose your wallet or your iPhone, you might be the subject of a sexual assault. So why put yourself at that risk?”
That warning comes as police search for a man who they said is wanted for two attacks on passengers in the subway.
Around 3 a.m. Tuesday, police said a 37-year-old man was sleeping on board a northbound No. 4 train when he felt a tug on his pants. When he woke up, he saw a man standing over him with a razor and noticed his jeans were cut in the left pocket area, police said.
When the victim tried to restrain the suspect, he was punched in the face, police said. The man then fled the train at the 51st Street station.
Police said the same man is wanted for an attack on a northbound C train back on Jan. 31.
In that incident, he pulled out a knife and demanded a 22-year-old man’s cell phone. The victim tried to grab the knife, and was cut on his hand, police said.
Police released a sketch of the suspect.
Several subway slashings have also been reported this year.
In the most recent incident, a 30-year-old man was slashed on the chin with a pocket knife while on a No. 3 train Monday afternoon.
Police said 37-year-old Stephen Braithwaite is charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon in the case. He has a history of arrests and police said he suffers from schizophrenia.
The NYPD has also released a surveillance photo of a suspect wanted for a separate subway slashing this past Sunday in Harlem at the 110th Street/Central Park North No. 3 train station.
The victim was slashed over his left eye with a knife after the suspect got into an altercation with a woman, police said.
A lot of riders said they want to see more police patrolling the subways.
“It’s frightening to think somebody is running around with anything sharp, poking anybody or cutting anybody,” Jersey City resident Nikolei Pohorelsky told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.
“It’s very, very frightening because it’s so indiscriminate,” said Gramercy resident Michael Blum.
“It’s really sad, that just shouldn’t happen but it’s New York and things like that do happen,” said Midtown resident Emmy Vales.
NYPD officials said that’s already underway and said they plan to have surveillance cameras installed on new subways trains.
“What you’re going to be seeing over the next couple weeks is additional uniforms down in the subways and what you’re not going to be seeing is additional plainclothes personnel assigned down there,” said NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill.
Chief Fox took CBS2’s Castro down to the subway platform to observe the police presence.
“Frankly, I’m not sure how someone could take the train every day and not see a police officer,” Fox said.
He said that in addition to the resources that riders do see, there are some that they won’t see.
Plain clothes officers will also be riding along passengers and looking for problems.
But Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said waking sleeping passengers “is an attempt to conceal the fact that we don’t have enough police officers.”
“Those who prey on sleeping passengers — what we call lushworkers — do so over and over again and there simply aren’t enough officers assigned in the Transit Bureau to keep them in check,” Lynch said in a statement. “The NYPD is understaffed and temporarily taking resources from other functions and putting them in the subway is a Band Aid approach and not a real solution.”
On a radio show Monday, Bratton called the recent subway slashings an aberration attracting media attention, 1010 WINS’ John Montone reported.
“Last year in the month of January we had three slashing incidents that did not attract any media attention,” Bratton said on Gambling Radio. “What happens from time to time, a series of incidents occur that attracts significant media attention as well as certainly appropriate police attention and that’s what’s happening here.”
The MTA board is also working with the NYPD to bring additional security measures to the subways.