Homeless Man Arrested in Subway Stabbings That Left 2 Dead, 2 Wounded

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The Police Department’s move to send 500 more officers to patrol the subways was criticized by activists who say the police are ill-equipped to deal with people who are homeless or mentally ill.

But Tony Utano, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, welcomed the additional officers, pointing to a rise in violence against transit employees last month. There were 18 assaults on transit workers in January, compared with 10 in January 2020, he said.

“This has to be a long-term assignment, not a quick flash in the pan,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “We need police officers in uniform, very visible, throughout stations. They need to be seen on the platforms and trains regularly.”

Mr. Utano also called on the M.T.A. to stop its plans to leave token booths unstaffed during station agents’ lunch breaks. He noted that a witness to the stabbing in Queens ran to the booth to call the police.

“If the M.T.A. plan goes forward, that booth could have been shuttered and empty,” he said.

A group of elected officials on Sunday called for the police to make sure the officers patrolling the subways are trained to deal with people in mental crisis and to demand that the city also send in a small army of social workers.

“They should be able to be more efficient addressing the problem of violence in the subway,” Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat and the chairman of the transportation committee, said in an interview.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a candidate for mayor, said there also needed to be better coordination between transit patrols and street patrols and stronger use of a state law allowing mentally ill people to be ordered into treatment.

“Our current approach to handling subway crimes is failing,” Mr. Adams said. “It should not take subway cars filled with blood.”

Michael Rothfeld contributed reporting.

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