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Recent subway assaults raise questions on subway safety

By Jack Levy, Staff Writer

Courtesy of Jeenah Moon of The New York Times

On Aug. 29, Wan Xu, a 34-year-old mom and resident of Queens, New York, was shoved onto the subway tracks in lower Manhattan in an unprovoked assault. Samuel Junker, 41, has since been arrested and charged with felony assault.

Xu has gotten surgery and is recovering from the injuries she sustained from the attack. However, she has been left afraid to ever ride the subway again and refuses to consider jobs in which she would need to take the subway.

On Oct. 17, another 30-year-old woman was shoved into an oncoming train in another unprovoked attack and sustained life-threatening injuries. 

The suspect in this case, Sabir Jones, has since been arrested. However, this case has drawn a lot of outcry because Jones has been involved in dozens of criminal cases involving other previous assaults, weapons possession, sexual crimes and drug charges.

“I don’t know why this person was even able to commit this crime,” senior University at Buffalo finance major Mike McGurk said. “Somebody who has been involved in multiple assaults should be in jail, not out on the streets.”

Another case from this September involved a 49-year-old man, Derrick Mills, who shoved a 74-year-old man onto the subway tracks where he suffered a spine fracture and other minor injuries.

Police have reported that there have been 22 shoving incidents in the subway this year up to Oct. 16, though there have been more since then.

These cases have brought up questions on how safe the subway, which is used by 2.4 million people per day, is for riders.

“I took the subway every day this summer for my internship,” McGurk said. “I never really felt unsafe but I always kept my eyes open and never had headphones in or anything because I knew I needed to be alert just in case.”

In response to safety concerns, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams introduced transit safety initiatives last year such as The Cops, Cameras and Care initiative, which looks to increase the number of police officers present at subway stations across the city.

“Our Cops, Cameras, and Care initiative has cracked down on subway crime, helped those in need, and continues to attract riders back to the subway system,” Hochul said in a statement now published on

Additionally, recently the NYPD introduced new egg-shaped 400-pound robots which will patrol the main station areas of the subway while constantly recording 360 degrees around.

“We’re committed to exploring innovative tools to continue to make this city the safest big city in America, and this robot K5, it has the potential to serve as an important tool in our toolbox,” Mayor Adams said

Students expressed that they hope these security measures will work, and improve safety on the subway.

“It’s important that people feel safe when taking public transportation. I think everyone is a little on edge when they have to take the subway, especially at night,” senior business administration major John Paccione said. “I hope these robots deter enough people from shoving or assaulting people but there should really just be zero tolerance for violence or harassment on the subway. People need to know there will be consequences for their actions.”

New York City’s Subway system was originally opened in 1904 and has been an integral part of life in the city for millions of residents since then. 

Millions of city workers need to take the subway every day. Tourists, teenagers and retirees also use the subway daily.

“I needed to take the subway,” McGurk said, “There was no way for me to get to my internship on time without it and I and a lot of other people relied on the subway to be safe. On the platform and in the cars.”

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