TWU officials and MTA employees went before the City Council yesterday to highlight threats to their personal safety. As both The Daily News and amNew York recount, the numbers are incomplete — police reports 96 felonies up from 82 last year while the union claims 170 reported attacks up from 134 last year — but union brass want the MTA and NYPD to do more to protect bus drivers and subway personnel. “If there were two sanitation workers, or police officers or City Council members being assaulted every week in New York City, they’d call in the National Guard to stop those assaults from happening.” Samuelsen said.
At the hearings yesterday, politicians tried to find a potential scapegoat. TWU officials pinpointed rider frustration over service cuts and general “economic hopelessness” as reasons for the increase but also warned of a general laissez faire attitude toward these attacks. Despite warnings that assaults on MTA employees carry a possible seven-year prison sentence, the MTA and NYPD are not proactive in protecting employees. A bus driver partition program is slowly coming to high-crime bus routes, but beyond that, police presence has remained stagnant.
To combat this problem, the MTA and NYPD have to strike a balance between proper enforcement and targeted patrol. While the increase of nearly 20 percent is shocking, 96 reported assaults out of a few billion total riders is a shocking low number and one hard to decrease. Is this ultimately a hazard of the job or one which deserves more attention and resources? After all, as James Vacca, head of the Council’s transit committee, said, “These people are not just a threat to drivers. They’re a threat to people like myself who are on the train and depend on transit every day.”