As subway ridership has plummeted across the city during the pandemic, crime has ticked up within the subway system in nearly every major category the NYPD tracks, including the number of people who have been shoved onto the tracks.
There were 18 total shoving incidents in the last 11 months, compared to 16 total incidents the same time last year. The increase comes despite a 70% decline in ridership since the pandemic began.
Overall crime is technically down because of a significant drop in grand larcenies that stand at 716 compared to 1,346 the same time last year. But when subtracting grand larcenies from the total number of cases, crime in every major category has gone up from 670 reported cases in 2019 to 854 cases this year.
The general increase in crime comes as the MTA faces serious financial challenges, with estimates that 9,000 MTA workers may be laid off if the federal government does not come through with a stimulus.
One of the latest alarming incidents happened on Thursday, when Aditya Vemulapati shoved Liliana Sagbaicela, a housekeeper, onto the tracks and in the path of an oncoming train at the 14th Street-Union Square station. Sagbaicela survived the ordeal, which was captured on video. Vemulapati is being held without bail.
"I don't remember, I wake up later almost 11 a.m. in the hospital — that's it," Sagbaicela, 40, told WABC-TV of what she remembered after she was shoved to the northbound rail bed on the 4/5/6 line.
On Wednesday, a man in his 30s was thrown to the tracks at the 42nd Street-Bryant Park station around 7 p.m. by an alleged panhandler. The victim survived the assault and police are still searching for the attacker who immediately fled the station.
Shortly after Thursday’s incident, the MTA’s interim president Sarah Feinberg said the city’s mental health crisis is driving these shoving incidents, and Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to act, according to the NY Times.
“We have got folks in this city who desperately need mental health care," Feinberg said. "I’m desperate for this mayor or the next mayor to take it on because we’ve got a long way to go.”
Some city lawmakers agreed that the mental health crisis at subway platforms should be addressed.
Councilmember Justin Brannan, a member of the Council's public safety committee, told the NY Post that he worried the pandemic has caused some New Yorkers to avoid getting the help they need.
“I believe unchecked mental illness may be the real second wave,'" he told the publication. "We must do more for those who need help.”
Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for de Blasio, defended the mayor's record in handling the mental health crisis.
‘This Administration has built a mental health infrastructure from the ground up, filling critical gaps in services to ensure every New Yorker has access to the care they need," Cohen said in a statement. "From outreach workers, to mobile mental health treatment teams, city workers will continue doing this critical work every day in our communities and subways."