Officials call for harsher penalties amid increase of assaults on MTA drivers, passengers

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Officials are condemning the rash of assaults on MTA employees and riders in the last week and some say stiffer penalties are needed.

Mass transit carries tens of thousands of people every day, but some people say the lifeline is becoming more of a hazard.

The most recent incident involved a bus driver in Brooklyn who was spit on before being knocked out by a wooden plank.

The driver is now recovering at home with 11 stitches to his finger and staples to his head.

MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye said "this is appalling and unacceptable."

The MTA is now begging the city for help and for more patrols and assistance with mental illness.

RELATED | MTA bus driver spit on, knocked unconscious with wooden plank in Brooklyn

One of the biggest concerns is that several riders have been pushed onto the tracks over the past few months.

Rosa Galeas was pushed twice at the 174th Street station in the Bronx on Tuesday morning.

"We take very, very seriously any time we have these types of incidents," NYC Commissioner Dermot Shea said. "We will get this case to a closure and make sure we have the proper balance of officers deployed now."

The incident is part of a troubling trend. Officials say five people have been pushed onto the tracks just this year.

"We are going to do everything in our power to make sure it remains an extremely safe transit system," Shea said.

Right now spitting on a transit worker is a misdemeanor, but MTA officials say it should have stricter penalties and should be a felony.

"The MTA is already proposing strengthening state law that will protect the employees against spitting and other assaults," Foye said.

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