NYC DAs push harsher penalties for attacks on transit workers

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All five of New York City’s district attorneys on Friday joined calls for Albany to impose harsher punishment on people who attack and spit on transit workers.

“Disrespecting our transit workers by spitting on these essential workers is a despicable and hazardous act, especially during this time where it could lead to serious health complications,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said in a statement circulated by the transit workers union.

“We must do all we can to protect train and bus operators and others in the transit system who have performed their jobs unfailingly,” Clark said.

The proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget includes language to make spitting or other forms of aggravated harassment against transit workers punishable by up to one year behind bars.

It would also add more positions to the list of transit workers it is a felony to attack.

Current law requires a police office to witness a spit attack in order to make arrests. Cuomo’s proposal would allow cops to investigate attacks based on statements by the victim or witnesses, union officials said.

The push to pass the bill by TWU Local 100 and the MTA’s other unions comes after a rash of attacks on city subways and buses — including an irate passenger smashing a bus driver with a 2-by-4 in Brooklyn.

At least 170 transit workers were victims of harassment in the first four weeks of 2021, according to MTA stats — an increase of 23 percent compared to the previous four-week period.

MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny, a former federal prosecutor, endorsed Cuomo’s proposal earlier this week.

“Spitting on a bus or train operator is an egregious act and with the still-raging COVID pandemic, potentially life-threatening,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said.

“Including this conduct within the aggravated harassment statute recognizes the seriousness of this abhorrent behavior and gives law enforcement additional tools to hold offenders accountable.”

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