New York’s subways are suffering from an old, familiar plague: broken windows. For the first half of the year, the Daily News reports, the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority has recorded 485 smashed windows, costing nearly $300,000, including 47 destroyed on just one July day. The MTA has also lost $1.2 million worth of digital-screen property to vandalism this year.
Old-time New Yorkers who rode the trains before their mid-1980s renaissance will remember spider-vein windows and doors as a ubiquitous part of commuting — along with something grimmer: the threat of violent crime. It’s no surprise, then, that a bloom of broken windows is coinciding with a surge in criminal attacks on people riding on or working in subways.
The pandemic’s first five weeks saw three murders in the subway system; now comes a fourth, the gruesome death of 57-year old Dwayne “Bilal” Brown, pushed to the subway tracks and killed by a train as he tried to break up a fight on a Harlem platform this month.
The last time New York’s subway system saw four murders in one year was in 2007 — and 2020 is barely half over. Moreover, 2007 was an aberration. Over the past 23 years, the subways have seen an average of just more than two people murdered each year.
The risk of being a crime victim on any given trip is low, well below 1 percent. But the statistical probability has skyrocketed. In June, an essential worker riding the trains faced six times the risk, relative to last June, of being robbed, and more than five times the risk of being assaulted.
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