NEW YORK CITY — Serial subway predators who strike underground could be banned from trains and buses under a plan being discussed by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
"We are looking actively, and have discussions begun with the MTA, and it may ultimately require potentially some legislation up in Albany, that some of these career recidivist criminals who use the subways to prey on victims, that we find some way of excluding them from the subway," Bratton said on The John Gambling Show on AM970 The Answer,
The move comes in the wake of an increased number of subway slashings. The most recent occurred Sunday morning at the 110th Street and Lenox Avenue subway stop in Harlem when a woman slashed a man she didn't know after an argument.
But there's also been an increase in underground crime generally.
Crime complaints in the subway jumped to 189 incidents from the beginning of the year through Jan. 24 compared to 147 during the same time last year, an increase of 29 percent, according to NYPD statistics.
There were six subway slashings in January, a 100 percent increase from last year when there were only three, Bratton said.
MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan said the agency was "reviewing the idea."
While police treat the assaults as a "high priority," Bratton also downplayed the slashings, saying that the six this month were unrelated and are getting more attention because the police and media are focusing on them.
"A couple of weeks ago we were talking about rapes....before that it was shootings, before that it was murder," Bratton said.
"This is New York, occasionally the media and police get focused on a series of incidents and that's what's happening here."
But there are a "cadre of career professional criminals, some of these people have been around for 20 or 30 years, have been arrested hundreds of times by us," who deserve to be booted from the system, said Bratton.
Currently, some people convicted of crimes on MTA subways and buses can be banned from using the system as part of their parole, Bratton said. Whether it would violate anyone's rights to expand that further is up in the air.
"As to the legalities of it, well that's some of what we'll seek to explore with the MTA and potentially the legislature as we go forward," Bratton said.
The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The idea seemed to get a boost of support from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"Mayor de Blasio is always interested in using additional tools to protect New Yorkers against transit crime," said spokeswoman Monica Klein.
In spite of the increased focus on subway slashings, Bratton said much of the crime in the subways is pedestrian — and preventable.
"The consistent, problematic crime we have in the subways is pickpocketing and theft of electronic equipment, about 50 percent of which occurs from sleeping passengers," Bratton said.
"So part of it is the idea of encouraging people to stay awake on the subway."