Cops have started patrolling buses to make sure drivers are safe
The NYPD has a message for thugs on city buses: We're watching you.
Cops will be hopping on and off buses in an effort to prevent assaults on transit workers, officials said at a National Transit Workers Assault Conference held in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Assaults of MTA workers increased from 72 in 2010 to 94 in 2011. There have been 36 assaults this year through April, an 11% increase from the same period last year, according to the agency.
The NYPD, which added more than 240 cops throughout the subway system this year, has started having beat cops check in on bus drivers along their routes, NYPD transit bureau chief Joseph Fox said Thursday.
"You'll see more police officers getting on the buses, stopping the buses ... riding for a couple of stops," Fox told the crowd of workers, officials and city prosecutors, adding, "It's a response to [Police] Commissioner [Ray]Kelly - and correctly - to increase the presence."
The police visits have already started in Staten Island and the Bronx, officials said. A police spokesman did not return a request for comment on the program.
Anthony Schepis, an executive assistant district attorney in the Bronx, said precinct commanders are making sure cops ride buses in areas with high crime.
"The rookies ... will have to take down the bus driver's badge number in order to show that they were actually on the bus," Schepis said. "That should provide you a measure of safety."
Sidney Corniff, a subway conductor along the No. 1 line for 10 years, said he was clocked in the face by someone on the platform at the 207th St. station last month as he was turning to look at the rear of the train before closing its doors. He woke up on the floor of his booth in a pool of his own blood as the train was entering the next station.
"It was like a frying pan hit my head. I saw stars," Corniff, 48, of the Bronx said Thursday. A bone in his nose was broken and he had two black eyes. Recurring pain and blurry vision has kept him out of work.
"I feel betrayed by the same customers I have to transport around daily. I don't feel safe," he said. "Any time I go out in public, everyone is a suspect. Who's to know you're not gonna attack me?"
Maurice Jenkins, a TWU vice president, said straphangers attack workers because there is no mandatory jail sentence if they are found guilty, but only a maximum sentence of seven years.
"You should get seven years off the bat for assaulting one of my bus drivers, one of my subway workers," Jenkins said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said the legal definition of "injury" should be made stronger, since many injuries to the eyes and mouth aren't covered under legislation meant to bring stiffer penalties for people who injure transit workers.