Subway rider threatened with knife, pepper sprayed hours after police commissioner tours system

Wednesday, October 12, 2022
Riders in fear amid troubling trends in subway crime
A subway rider was threatened with a knife and pepper sprayed by a suspect while onboard a train in Manhattan early Wednesday, police said. N.J. Burkett has the story.

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A subway rider was threatened with a knife and pepper sprayed by a suspect while onboard a train in Manhattan early Wednesday, police said.

According to police, it happened around 1:30 a.m. as a northbound 1 train approached the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station.

The 57-year-old victim told police that he received a small cut and was peppered sprayed by another man.

Police were also searching for six men wanted for beating a 17-year-old.

According to police, he was kicked and stabbed just after 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street station.

Investigators say the teen knew his attackers.

That attack happened at the same station that Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell visited Tuesday night.

Only Eyewitness News cameras were there as she heard directly from riders.

"Obviously we're concerned about the safety of New Yorkers," Sewell said. "This subway has to be safe. I remember taking the subway myself to go to school. The people who go to school, the people who work in the city, and this is the lifeblood, it has to be safe."

While the NYPD points out that violent crime levels are about the same as they were pre-pandemic, there has been a recent spike with three homicides reported in transit in the last two weeks.

The department added nearly a thousand more officers to the subway beat focusing on 15 train lines in 20 stations citywide.

"I think it's the randomness of it, you know, you hear these stories-somebody stabbed over here or somebody's pushed over there," said Diane Abyssinian. "Not just the subway, it's everywhere. Cops can't be everywhere."

Criminologist Joe Giacalone says subway riders are right to be concerned.

"We need to make sure that the transportation system is not only working, but it's also perceived to be safe," Giacalone said. "And right now that perception is not. It's not that it's safe."

And it's more than perception. Over the past 10 years, murders have soared. From one in all of 2011 down to zero in 2017 -- to eight last year and eight more so far this year.

And over the past 10 years, the number of felony assaults has more than doubled. Even at a time when a third of riders have yet to return to the transit system. And so far this year, felony assaults are up an additional 17%.

"You can flood the system with as many cops as you want," Giacalone said. "If people are going to just come right back into the subway and use it as a shelter, or people who are going to get arrested for crimes and then be released almost immediately to come back into the subway system to commit more crimes because there's no fear in the criminal justice system, that's another problem."

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