NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio had a frank admission Monday after a rash of attacks involving the mentally ill.
The latest incident involved a rampage in Astoria, Queens by a man with schizophrenia who reportedly was not on his medication. Police alleged that James Patrick Dillon, 23, slashed a woman in the face, stabbed and killed a liquor store owner, and stabbed a homeless man and tried to light him on fire.
Dillon hen allegedly threw a flammable liquid at the hands of the police officers who caught up to him, prompting the officers to shoot and wound him.
Last week, an emotionally disturbed homeless man slashed a Dunkin’ Donuts employee in the Bronx.
The woman was working at the walk-up window at the Dunkin’ Donuts at 2 E. Kingsbridge Rd., in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, when the man reached through the window and slashed her face around, police said.
Ronald Thompson, 31, was arrested at the scene, police said. CBS2 has learned he has 31 prior arrests.
In the wake of the attacks, CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer posed a question to the mayor.
Kramer asked de Blasio to share your thoughts and concerns about mental health and public danger.
“We really have to do things differently,” de Blasio replied. “We need to do a much better job – again, city government, state government, federal government – all of us – at identifying when someone has a problem and getting them the help they need.”
It was unclear Monday who should have gotten help for Dillon. His father told police he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and not taken medication in about six months.
He also had a record of seven arrests dating back to the time he was 12. The most recent arrest was in January 2013, on charges of menacing with a weapon.
“This horrible tragedy over the weekend is not only very painful, but also very complex, because the individual had no history of significant violence,” de Blasio said. “There were some minor criminal offenses, but not involving violence.”
But with more and more homeless people with psychological problems, and with many trying to arm themselves, Kramer reported the problem has serious consequences. Last week, unarmed security guards confiscated a terrifying collection of cleavers, knives, razors, daggers and other cutting implements from a homeless shelter at 30th Street and First Avenue, and numerous weapons were also collected from five Brooklyn shelters in a period of just 24 hours.
Mayor de Blasio said the problem started with the state de-institutionalizing mental patients in the 1970s and 80s. He said he is going to take it on and try to fix it.
“That family deserved more help to figure out how to handle the problems that that young man was having,” de Blasio said. “We have to make treatment available very widely and very easily.”
A program developed by city First Lady Chirlane McCray earmarks $850 million over four years for various treatment programs.
But in the meantime, the incidents do add to the public perception of danger. A new poll by a civic group called One New York Together found that 55 percent of the city is getting “less safe.”