The city’s district attorneys say they’ll prosecute spitting on transit workers, but not smoking weed or urinating in the subway — which shows how clueless the prosecutors are about what makes it dangerous underground.
The DAs were showing support for a state bill to make saliva-assaults easier to prosecute. “Spitting on someone is disgusting, especially despicable during this hazardous time where it can lead to very serious health consequences,” said Bronx DA Darcel Clark said.
Clark, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez and the others want to make spitting or other forms of aggravated harassment against transit workers punishable by up to one year behind bars, with evidence from civilian witnesses (not just cops) being sufficient. It’s an interesting position, after the DAs have done so much to make the subways more perilous.
Asked if the tougher law would bring the mentally ill and homeless into the criminal-justice system, Clark called it a “citywide problem that we need to come to grips with.” In other words, the greater good matters more.
Yet Manhattan DA Cy Vance and most others now refuse to prosecute fare-evaders, arguing that the cost of a MetroCard swipe is too low to justify wasting the resources. Hauling public urinators before a judge is out of fashion now, too.
Problem is, small disorders beget large ones: Public chaos is an open invitation to serious criminals, and a license to act out against other citizens. As these low-level violations have increasingly gone unenforced and unpunished, commuters have seen the subways (and the streets) grow more dangerous and greater disorder in the system.
The rising number of assaults on MTA workers is just one result — and it won’t actually be fixed by the targeted law the DAs deign to support.
The Transport Workers Union should laugh at this supposed favor: A promise to prosecute one isolated set of crimes won’t reduce the growing dangers in their workplace. For that, they need a law-enforcement system that once again puts public safety first for everyone.