NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city’s top prosecutors are are proposing the state to do more to stop assaults on transit workers, by changing the law.
Workers like bus driver Pierre Jean shared their stories of harassment while on the job at a rally in downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.
“A young gentleman climbed over a petition and spit on my face. The police did arrive but he ran. When they left the bus, there’s nothing they could do,” Jean said.
“I was just doing my route, pulling into a stand. I loaded a passenger. A second passenger came to the door and just spit on me. It’s humiliating and frustrating,” another worker named Paul said.
The transit workers union says crimes of all kinds have surged on buses and subways since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and that each day multiple workers are pushed, hit, and verbally harassed.
“It is not only disgusting, it is outrageous, and that’s why we have to have the teeth, we have to have the law that will allow us to prosecute those who do it and to keep our essential workers, our bus drivers, our train operators, and everyone who supports, to keep them safe,” Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said.
All five of the city’s district attorneys are calling on the state to make any physical contact against transit workers a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
“The way the law is written now, it’s only a violation, so unless the police officer actually saw it they couldn’t do anything. It’s just a summons,” Bronx DA Darcel Clark said.
Commuters are also on edge. In the last month alone there have been many incidents, including the stabbing deaths of two homeless men on the A train, the punching of a toddler on the C train in Harlem, and the pushing of several people onto subway tracks.
The NYPD has added roughly 650 police officers who are dedicated to patrolling subways. The transit union says it’s a start, but 1,000 more officers are needed to help keep crime down.
The NYPD has also added investigators whose sole purpose is probing subway crimes.