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Spate of Random Subway Slashings Has Straphangers on Edge

By Trevor Kapp | January 28, 2016 7:52am
 New Yorkers said they're being extra cautious following a recent spate of slashings across the city.
New Yorkers on High Alert After Wave of Random Slashings
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UNION SQUARE — A spate of slashings on New York City's streets and subways has straphangers taking extra caution on their commutes.

“You don’t know who could slash you at any point,” said bike messenger and subway rider Anthony Rosario, 45, of Mott Haven, who said he's been on his guard more than usual. "They’re not targeting people. It’s random."

A 29-year-old straphanger was slashed across the hand Tuesday night by a mentally ill rider who told her "I will chop you up on this train" as she rode at the Eastern Parkway 3 train stop, police said.

On Monday morning, a 71-year-old woman needed 20 stitches after she was cut across the face at the Broadway-Lafayette station. Police arrested 21-year-old Damon Knowles for that attack, the NYPD said.

Jelissa Garcia, 26, said she’s opted in recent weeks to use only one headphone so she can be more aware of who’s around her.

“There’s gang stuff, but other times, it’s for no reason,” said Garcia, of West Harlem.

“It’s scarier in the subways because that’s where the homeless are and there’s less of a police presence.”

Lifelong New Yorker Michael Morales, 65, said he’s more alert than ever before.

“The city’s overcrowded. There’s too much tension," said Morales, of Bensonhurst. "Bills are high, people don’t have jobs and it causes frustration. There are a lot of mentally ill and something clicks and they hurt you.”

The attacks haven’t just been underground. Last week, police arrested Francis Salud, 28, in connection to an apparent random slashing of a 30-year-old man in the East Village on Jan. 16. The victim needed 200 stitches to close the gash, police said.

Earlier this month, Kari Bazemore, 41, was arrested for slashing a 24-year-old woman outside a Chelsea diner in another random morning attack, the NYPD said.

In response to questions about the rash of slashings, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has said the department is training 5,500 officers over the next several months to deal with the mentally ill, but insisted the rails are safe.

“We have these spikes from time to time," he said. "Then it somewhat subsides.

"It is a very safe system. Again, 6 million people a day on average go through that system without incident other than, as (Chief of Department James O'Neill) and I found this morning, being jammed in like sardines."

Subway riders said the added resources can’t come soon enough.

“It’s random — that’s what makes it more troubling,” said straphanger Gary Bell, 58, a bouncer from the Lower East Side. “I don’t sit close to the door because they slash you and keep going. We need more cops you can see, not just plainclothes.”

Jamaine Burris, 28, who has worked with the mentally ill, said the person you least suspect can be the most dangerous.

“You never know who’s crazy,” said Burris, of East New York. “It’s not one particular color or shape. Crazy can be undercover.”

MTA Vice Chairman Fernando Ferrer said, “We’re in close communication with the New York City Police Department and with our own police department."

He continued: "[The NYPD] are redoubling their efforts in New York City’s subways. We are redoubling efforts in areas where MTA PD patrols as well. This we take seriously."