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Monday’s Headlines: Crime and Crime Again Edition

12:02 AM EST on February 15, 2021

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

No matter how you punctuate it (if you go with "President's Day," you're really only honoring one president; if you go with "Presidents Day," you're honoring all of them; and if you go with "Presidents' Day," as the Times does, you're making no sense at all), it's a national holiday. That means the Streetsblog crew is off today, though our old man editor will be minding the shop as he teaches his eighth grader about the Election of 1876 (which was a homework assignment from two weeks ago that got lost in the mind-numbing, hope-erasing, soul-crushing, life-squashing reality of remote learning, as teenager Liv McNeil reminds us so poignantly).

In the meantime, the big story over the weekend was subway crime, thanks to the homicidal efforts of a mentally ill man. The Daily News story on Sunday was a bit of prose poetry — in that it reduced our national trauma with mental illness down to the standard tabloid cry, "More cops, please":

MTA officials called on the NYPD to flood the subway with 1,000 additional cops after a mentally ill homeless man went on a rampage over the weekend, stabbing four people, two fatally, during a horrifying 14-hour stretch. The bloody attacks — which all targeted homeless New Yorkers — were the latest in a wave of high profile crimes that transit officials said must be met with the full force of the country’s largest police department.

In reporting the crime, New York's Hometown Paper focused solely on the need for more cops. The story fails to mention that bad things happen when a society is gripped by a year-long pandemic that has killed 30,000 New Yorkers, exacerbated racial inequities, destabilized lives, destroyed a sense of community, damaged trust in government and filled basic, day-to-day lives with anxieties, depressions, pain and suffering. (The Post ran basically the same story).

Certainly, most can agree that cops are needed to find and arrest people who have committed crimes (like the alleged assailant in this case, who was indeed collared after some good detective work), but why has it become untenable to point out that cops are the last thing we should be talking about? Why do we only think of calling in the cops, rather than doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on all of the steps that would obviate the need for more cops? Every step of a child's life needs to be strengthened: from a child's nutrition; to his nurturing; to his housing; to his education; to his ability to get satisfying, properly paid work; to his health care; to his mental health care; to his ability to access weapons; to neglect by his government; and to his alienation from his fellow man — all must be addressed before the need for more cops.

(The Times story, which was far more comprehensive than the tabloids', rightfully lamented "the vulnerability of the hundreds of homeless people who shelter in the transit system," pointed out the last time there was a subway "serial killer," it was also a mentally ill homeless man who preyed on the homeless, and reminded its readers that focusing so sharply on crime only blurs all the other problems.)

It's just basic: If there weren't homeless people in the subway, and there weren't mentally ill people left untreated, four homeless people would not have been stabbed in the subway by a mentally ill person. But sure, more cops. Fine, Nicole Gelinas. You get your wish for now.

In fairness, the Post did shine a light on our society's ongoing struggle with mental illness by mourning one of the victims, Claudine Roberts. It's a touching (albeit too-little, too-late) story in the "there but for the grace of God" go all of us vein — cops or no cops.

In other news:

    • Nicki Minaj's father was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Long Island. (NYDN)
    • A passenger in a speeding car was killed when the driver slammed into a bus in the Bronx. (NY Post)
    • Gothamist did a second-day take on that report about foul subway air.
    • We're getting an ice storm on Monday night into Tuesday. (National Weather Service)
    • The Times finally got around to writing up the obit for Albor Ruiz, the great journalist who died on Jan. 8.
    • Larry Penner was not happy with our story about the shortcomings of the feds' latest funding infusion to public transit. Your friendly retired federal transit man thinks it will be — if the MTA tightens the belt. (Mass Transit)
    • And, finally, our editor kinda freaked out when he was biking around on Saturday only to see so many bike lanes filled with snow — then he more emails on Sunday from Friends of Streetsblog revealing more frozen tundra where there should only be emerald green.
      • Some of the greenway along the Belt Parkway still hasn't been cleared (ignore the date on the tweet — CycleNYC revisited the site and said it's still impassable). Perhaps those cyclists are expected to just take a lane on the highway?
    • And Broadway at 31st Street in Manhattan is still blocked (photo here).
    • And so is Ninth Avenue at 23rd Street (photo here).

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