Attacks on public transport workers: MTA extends security cameras and calls for tougher penalties
STATEN ISLAND, NY – As attacks on bus operators continue to increase in New York City, MTA steps up security measures while calling on state lawmakers to increase penalties for assaults on transportation workers in common.
On Thursday, the MTA leadership was joined by representatives of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in condemning the recent attacks on MTA transit workers, announcing new safety efforts and encouraging l adoption of legislation that would toughen the penalties for such attacks.
“Every day, nearly 10,000 bus operators come to work to move millions of New Yorkers safely to where they want to go in this city,” said Craig Cipriano, acting president of the bus company MTA and senior vice president of the NYC Transit Department of Buses. . “But too many of them are unable to do this already difficult job without being harassed or attacked. The verbal and physical attacks on our bus operators have both increased over the past year and we are here today to say with one voice that enough is enough. “
The calls follow an increase in violent incidents against bus operators in the past year, with assaults under New York criminal law increasing by more than 10% and spitting incidents by 35% from 2018 .
As recently as last week, a rider assaulted a 65-year-old bus driver on Route B15 in Brooklyn, hitting the driver in the face with a padlock after the driver refused to let him board the bus at the previous stop.
In an effort to help curb recent attacks, the agency announced that security cameras will be fitted on the 5,700 MTA buses by the end of the MTA investment plan 2020-2024. Currently, around 4,200 buses are equipped with security cameras, of which around 90% are local buses.
A worker safety task force will also be formed to identify hot spots of assault on public transport throughout the city, where the MTA will deploy some of the 500 new MTA police officers should start patrolling the system in the next few months.
“Our dedicated front-line employees often bear the brunt of the frustrations of users that are well beyond their control. The public must understand that operating a bus in this city is already a challenge and that attacks on bus drivers are totally unacceptable, ”Cipriano added.
The MTA and TWU applauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for introducing legislation in the FY2021 executive budget that would toughen penalties for assaults on transit workers and expand the list of workers who would be protected under the new law.
If the law were approved, aggravated harassment of a transit worker, which includes spitting, would become a Class A offense, punishable by up to one year in prison. Currently, spitting on a transit worker is not subject to a fine.
In addition, the legislation would expand the list of transit workers protected from train and bus operators, signal workers and terminal cleaners to also include customer support staff, system repairers. signaling, lane cleaners and supervisors.
“We call on our elected officials to make it a crime to spit on public transport workers. We want prosecutors to aggressively pursue cases where bus drivers are assaulted, ”said JP Patafio, vice president of TA Surface, TWU.