The ten slashing/stabbing incidents that have occurred in the NYC subway since the beginning of January are not part of a trend or copy-cat phenomenon, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted today.
"I'm going to ask all of you to report this very squarely," Mayor de Blasio told reporters on Wednesday, at a monthly briefing on crime statistics. "These are individual incidents. There is not a pattern here."
"We don't have somebody moving around the subway system randomly slashing multiple victims," Bratton added.
There have been 37 assaults in the subway this year to date, according to NYPD Transit Chief Joseph Fox. Six were slashings—compared to three over the same period in 2015—and four were stabbings, compared to two last year. Of these, two resulted from robberies, and seven from an altercation—someone spilling hot coffee, for example, or telling another straphanger to keep their voice down.
"Only one of these attacks is what we'd call 'random,'" Fox said, referring to the slashing of 71-year-old Carmen Rivera on a southbound D train last Monday morning. "They all concern me, but this one concerns me the most."
Commissioner Bratton also blamed NYC's record-high ridership, trying his best to commiserate with the average straphanger. "Tempers are short when you can't get on a subway car. It's actually fascinating that 6 million people a day ride, and it's actually as safe as it is," Bratton added. "It is a relatively calm environment considering the crowding."
In the coming weeks, New Yorkers can expect to see extra uniformed officers at subway stations across the city. Deputy Chief Jimmy O'Neill confirmed that a few pre-selected stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan will also undergo complete inspections, including mezzanines, platforms, and trains pulling through. Transit cops will be working overtime, and will be reinforced by members of the NYPD's new Counterterrorism Response Command (CRC) unit, as well as the Strategic Response Unit, the NYPD's protest police referred to by some activists as the "goon squad."
"It's actually very practical," Bratton said. "We'll be meeting with [MTA Chairman] Tom Prendergast to explore further the options within their powers. Some of these characters have been out there for 25 years with 50, 100, 150 arrests under their belts. If they continue to go in, let's put them away for a longer period of time so they can't keep victimizing New Yorkers."
The Commissioner went on to compare his idea to policies already in place in city parks and playgrounds. "Might it require legislation? Possibly," he said. "In that case, let's give it a try."
Other planned measures are within the NYPD's power to instate. For example, officers will be tasked with waking up sleeping passengers, according to top brass. Apparently, about half of the seven-odd crimes documented in the subway each day are committed against sleeping passengers.
City-wide, NYC saw the lowest crime statistics in CrimeStat history this January, according to the NYPD. There were a record-low 22 murders last month, compared to 40 this time last year. Rape, robbery, grand larceny, and burglary all saw marginal decreases.
"There's so little crime that we're paying a lot of attention to a relatively small amount of crime," Bratton argued. "We are able to focus when something is out of the norm."
A 37-year-old man allegedly slashed a fellow straphanger across the chin with a knife on a northbound 3 train in Brooklyn on Monday afternoon, after throwing hot coffee onto his victim's back and shouting, "Wanna fight?"