Assaults on T workers on the rise

police crime scene photoBoston Herald | April 10, 2013 | By Gary J. Remal and Richard Weir

Assaults on MBTA employees are up dramatically this year, T cops say, after arresting a rider they say spat on and then slugged a bus driver in Malden’s Oak Grove Station in the kind of fare dispute that the T police chief said is a growing problem.

Verbal threats and assaults on T employees rose from 20 during the period Jan. 1-April 8 last year, to 37 so far in 2013 — an increase of 85 percent, said Transit Police Superintendent in Chief Joseph O’Connor. So far this year, 21 of the reported incidents have been physical assaults.

“We’ve seen an increase in
attacks, especially bus driver
assaults,” O’Connor said. “The vast majority of these cases involve
collecting fares, doing their jobs.”

“Last year, with the fare increase, a lot of comments were made by the public that individuals were evading paying their fares,” O’Connor said. “The employees of the MBTA heard that loud and clear, and they’ve been making an effort to collect fares, and for whatever reason (evaders are) getting aggressive with the operators.”

“This problem is not just coming on the MBTA,” O’Connor said. “We’re seeing it’s a problem around the country.”

Police say recent incidents are not limited to fare disputes, however:

  • On March 9, a Route 16 bus driver was viciously punched and kicked by a group of teens who stormed the bus after waving it down on a Dorchester street at 1:20 a.m. Two teens have been charged.
  • On March 20, KiDante Roberts, 18, of Dorchester was arrested on charges of spitting in the face of a Route 19 bus driver, causing the bus to roll forward as the operator took his foot off the brake. Police said Roberts started cursing when the driver said he couldn’t exit the rear door because of high snowbanks.
  • On March 23, James Robinson, 53, of Mattapan was busted on charges of assault for threatening to stab the driver of the Mattapan Highspeed Line after she told him he had to come to the front to pay his fare when he pounded on the rear doors.

Yesterday in Malden, T cops arrested Ryan O’Donnell, 19, of Wakefield, and charged him with assault on a public employee, and aggravated assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. O’Donnell tried to use a Charlie Card to pay but didn’t have enough credit and demanded a free ride, O’Connor said. When the driver refused, O’Donnell spat on him, O’Connor said. The driver followed O’Donnell off the bus, and was punched “multiple times,”
police said.

O’Connor said the MBTA is planning a new public relations campaign, training for T employees to de-escalate disputes and more video camera use.

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