Attacks on MTA employees are on the rise this year, prompting the new installation of security cameras and conflict resolution courses for bus drivers. NY1’s Tina Redwine filed the following report.
One after another, subway workers told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board what it can be like being on the front line with a sometimes hostile public.
“A male passenger attacked me. He jumped up because I woke him up, punched me in the side,” said subway conductor Alyssa Webb.
“I was punched in my face by a male passenger,” said train operator Aisha Miller.
NY1 has learned that attacks on MTA employees underground are increasing at an even greater rate than on bus drivers.
MTA officials say assaults on subway workers are up 24 percent while bus operator attacks are up 20 percent this year.
“She assaulted me with her purse and then she proceeded to hit on me,” said bus operator Christopher Jenkins.
Also listening at the hearing was the governor's nominee for MTA chairman, Joseph Lhota. He's scheduled to become acting chief executive officer in mid-November.
Until then, New York City Transit President Tom Prendergast is in charge. He said he's working closely with the New York City Police Department.
“We monitor statistics, share them with them, and based upon analysis of those statistics, the police department deploys strategies to basically enforce and increase the level of enforcement,” said Prendergast.
Assaulting a transit worker was raised from a misdemeanor to a felony three years ago, but attacks continue. Transport workers union representatives say that's because suspects are hardly ever caught.
MTA officials say attacks on subway operators and conductors are up 24 percent and assaults on bus operators are up 20 percent so far this year. Union reps say the number of attacks is far higher.
“The customers are frustrated, rightfully so. We've had to make difficult decisions, and the front line troops are the ones that are feeling it,” said Vincent Tessitore, Jr., MTA board member and LIRR union chair.
MTA officials said security cameras are being installed to help reduce assaults, and bus drivers will take a refresher course on conflict resolution, a proposal the union will comment on once it has a look at the plan.
The union is working with management to design partitions drivers are comfortable using.
Twenty-two shields are being tested on buses in Brooklyn and The Bronx, where most of the attacks have occurred.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the MTA board said the security committee would review how the district attorneys prosecute cases involving assaults on MTA employees every year.