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New York has become Dodge City, because of laws without consequence and judges exercising revolving door justice.
Do not believe me? Read The Post any day of the week and you’ll find tales of brutal daylight shootings, jeweler robberies, blatant shoplifting and tales of serial offenders wreaking havoc in the five boroughs.
It’s particularly personal to me, given my close encounter with a homeless, emotionally disturbed person on a 6 train in The Bronx early this year.
Readers may recall that my wife and I encountered a young, untidy, and barefoot man who was leaning forward and threatening an elderly rider with a knife. The man, later identified by police as Johnathan Gonzalez, threatened to slit the other passenger’s throat, challenged anyone to stop him and ranted about getting “three squares a day” on Rikers.
I distracted him long enough to let the other man escape. After getting off the train at Parkchester station, I called 911 and the NYPD police caught up with him a few stops later.
Subways in chaos
Gonzalez was arrested, sent to a local hospital for evaluation, and later charged with threats by the Bronx State Department.
The case is still open. Gonzalez failed to show up for his March hearing and an arrest warrant was issued. Since then, he’s been arrested seven or eight times on charges of petty shoplifting on the Upper East Side – but he’s still not being held.
Since shoplifting is not a crime eligible for bail, Gonzalez cannot be returned. And for some reason, the judges in Manhattan seem reluctant to hold him on the Bronx warrant — probably just urging him to return to the Bronx court.
It’s maddening. Gonzalez most likely suffers from a mental illness. He is clearly not getting the help he so clearly needs. Still, the judges in Manhattan believe he is able to meet his trial dates.
The whole approach to repeat shoplifters in Manhattan is discouraging and undermines public confidence in our justice system.
I’m a die-hard subway driver. I refuse to be deterred from my daily commute because we can’t give ground to crime and disorder.
On a recent commute, I avoided a subway where a muttering, shoeless bum sat in the corner. And in the car where I sat down, I saw a homeless man, covered with a white sheet, sleeping on one of the benches of the train car.
I looked out of the car at the MTA subway cleaners before realizing there was little they could – or should – do.
At the same station, their colleague Anthony Nelson was hospitalized last month with a broken collarbone, dislocated nose and other injuries after trying to stop another demented homeless serial detainee (42 arrests at last count) from harassing straphangers .
That suspect, Alexander Wright, one of the many revolving door justice poster boys, is in Rikers awaiting trial for this latest assault. Nelson’s family and the Transport Workers Union have gathered around him by insisting that his attacker be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Meanwhile, the MTA wants to ask the court to ban Wright from the subway system for three years. And those who attack transit workers and threaten commuters need to understand that criminal behavior has consequences.
Individuals who have been shown to suffer from serious mental illness should be held accountable and, from a humanitarian perspective, require mental health treatment in an appropriate setting given their crimes.
The EDP situation in the metro remains real and dangerous. I was fortunate not to have suffered Mr. Nelson’s fate.
The pattern of “catch, release and repeat” for individuals like Johnathan Gonzalez endangers public safety and does nothing to provide them with the necessary care.
Mayor Adams has absolutely no control over the situation in the subway. He needs Albany lawmakers and judges to join his efforts to make the transit system more secure.
Former Councilor Michael Benjamin serves on the editorial board of The Post.