Here’s hoping the NYPD’s new push against serial subway sickos leads to real change. But it won’t be easy.
The latest case turns on the guy busted for allegedly stalking and groping a 16-year-old girl: After she found the strength to come forward, undercover cops followed her until they caught him in the act.
Only to see him set free pending trial, as prosecutors didn’t ask for bail or even an order barring him from the subway — merely one keeping him from approaching her.
“He’s out, and she’s constructively banned” from riding the subway, fumed NYPD Chief of Transit Edward Delatorre on Wednesday after speaking at a City Council public-safety hearing.
Part of the problem is that the accused, Rajesh Gami, has no priors, so no New York City judge would order bail. And the basic principle of “innocent until proven guilty” allows the sort of restraining order the court did issue, but not one to avoid the subway — a public place.
That’s why Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea told the council that the laws need more teeth: They’re now too kind even to perps with multiple convictions for groping, grinding, exposure and so on.
Indeed, since the crime is a misdemeanor, prosecutors soon won’t even be able to ask for bail in these cases, thanks to the Legislature’s latest reforms.
State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Bklyn/SI) has a bill to make subway grinding a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and to elevate public lewdness to a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail). But it’s sure to die in the “never get tough” Assembly unless sustained and heavy public outrage forces the issue.
Meanwhile, Manhattan prosecutors point out one thing the MTA could do: Seek “trespass orders” against these creeps, barring them from its premises. Transit authorities in San Francisco, Seattle and elsewhere have had some success on that front.
Indeed, acting Queens DA Jack Ryan points out that his office and the Port Authority Police Department already use such orders to protect JFK and La Guardia, limiting targeted individuals to using the airports for the purpose of travel only.
At the very least, the MTA needs to get with the DAs and the NYPD brass for a unified offensive.
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