NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Transit Workers Union is sending out a cry for help, calling on police to protect their members after hundreds of their workers were attacked on the job.
Sixty-one-year-old Reginald Frazier cleans subway stations for the MTA.
Around 2 a.m. on Aug. 5, he was working alone at the Dyckman Street station in the Inwood section of Manhattan when he says a man attacked him, totally unprovoked.
“Said he was gonna punch me in my face and started coming at me,” Frazier said. “So when I started going up the stairs, backing up from him, backing up, he picked up a crate on his way upstairs, so he was swinging the crate at me, blocking the crate, blocking the crate.”
Frazier says his foot got stuck in a sidewalk crack and he tore his patellar tendon. His attacker continued bashing him in the face, leaving him with gashes on his forehead and lip.
“Was there any police presence?” CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez asked.
“No, no, no, you gotta hold your own when you’re down there after 2 [a.m.],” Frazier said.
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Transport Workers Union records show bus and subway workers like Frazier have been assaulted, verbally attacked or spat on nearly 900 times between August and mid-December.
It’s a disturbing spike in crime that prompted union president Tony Utano to send a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, calling for meeting with him and the heads of patrol and transit, demanding more police presence.
“We’re out there moving service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we have to put up with assaults. They call us heroes. Well, protect your heroes,” Utano said.
“Police presence is the ultimate deterrent,” Frazier said.
The union says police have agreed to meet.
Frazier, a father of three who lost his 21-year-old daughter to COVID-19 in April, says he and transit workers are on the front lines, keeping the city running during the pandemic.
TWU Vice President of Stations Robert Kelley says many workers are now afraid to come to work, fearing violence, too.
“We haven’t lost them physically, but their souls are lost, OK, so I consider this a loss. It’s a death sentence to some that can’t get past this,” he said.
Frazier’s attacker was arrested, but his union is urging the district attorneys in all five boroughs to be tougher when prosecuting these attacks.
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