NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A hammer attack on the A train Thursday is the most recent in a mounting number of incidents involving emotionally-disturbed individuals in New York.
A homeless man who had been sleeping and taking up several seats caused panic when he pulled out a hammer, threatened a passenger who has apparently wanted him to move, then spit at him as he rushed off the train.
Chad Gledhill was on the train and spoke to CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer.
“I was afraid,” Chad Gledhill said. “I was freaked out. I was freaked out. I’m just a boy from the ‘burbs, Santa Monica, L.A. I’ve never had to deal with a situation like this. Thank god.”
Gledhill says after the first passenger ran off the train, the man looked for other victims.
“He came at me, pointed the hammer and eventually, I started running off,” he said. “It’s like, I’m in New York now.”
Tragically, incidents like this involving emotionally-disturbed people acting out are happening with greater frequency, causing mayhem.
Police calls for incidents involving the so-called EDPs, or emotionally disturbed persons, more than doubled in the last decade, going from 84,114 in 2009 to 179,569 last year.
Another video taken Thursday shows an individual climbing on an MTA bus. He is seen taking out a utility tool to cut the rubber accordion that connects two sections on an M-15 bus on Second Avenue between 13th and 14th streets.
Man Seen On Video Climbing, Stabbing MTA Bus In East Village —
He then climbed on the front of the bus and repeatedly stabbed it before swinging the mirror and falling to the ground. The bus driver and several good Samaritans then held him until cops arrived.
“The problem is that the NYPD now is basically just triaging the problem, and the number of calls that are being made to the NYPD for people they have to respond to in emotional distress has skyrocketed, more than doubled over the last decade,” CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters said.
Peters says the cops have two bad options in dealing with EDPs right now — sending them to Rikers or hospital emergency rooms.
“Emergency rooms are not set up to deal with this long-term,” Peters said. “The city’s own statistics show 15% of people who are treated at the emergency rooms end up back at the emergency rooms 30 days later [after another EDP incident].”
Robert Mascali, a former deputy commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services, says it’s compounded by the fact that the number of homeless given supportive housing is at a 14-year low.
“Supportive housing is the number one best way,” he said. “Mental health problems are dealt with in supportive housing … They have case workers. They have psychiatrists.”
Police sources tell CBS2 the man involved in the bus attack was taken to the hospital for observation and that it’s likely no charges will be filed. Based on what Peters says, he could be involved in another incident in pretty short order.