By Nathan Duke
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) is urging the city to undertake new initiatives to prevent sexual harassment or assault on city subways in light of the police’s arrest of more than 400 individuals who tormented women on trains within the past year.
The councilman has proposed that the city Police Department compile a list of sex offenders and publish their names along with their photographs online, which he believes would act as a deterrent.
He has also sponsored a bill introduced by Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan) that would require the NYPD to collect data on the number of sexual harassment complaints that occur on the city’s transit system.
“It appears that the majority of women in the city have experienced some form of sexual harassment on the subway at some point in their lives,” he said. “That is completely unacceptable.”
In 2005, Brooklyn’s Maria Besedin was raped on the platform of the G line at Long Island City’s 21st Street station, but her attacker was never apprehended. The victim ran toward a toll booth clerk at the station and pleaded for help, but the clerk merely looked on as the assailant dragged her back down the stairs and raped her multiple times.
The MTA defended its employee, who had hit a button that connected him to a command center.
Besedin filed a suit against the city, the toll booth clerk and a conductor, who had driven a train through the station as the rape was occurring but did not stop. Queens Supreme Court Justice Kevin Kerrigan dismissed the case last year.
In 2007, Vallone called on the city to give tougher penalties for peeping Toms following complaints from Astoria residents that a man frequently positioned himself under the Ditmars Boulevard N train station to look up women’s skirts.
Vallone, chairman of the Council Public Safety Committee, held a hearing last week with the Council’s Transportation and Women’s Issues committees on sexual harassment on subways.
During that hearing, NYPD Transit Chief James Hall said the vast majority of victims are 17 years or older.
Of the 412 individuals arrested in the past year for committing sex offenses on the subway, 71 had been previously arrested on similar charges and 14 were registered sex offenders, Hall said.
The average offender was a 39-year-old male.
“This is about raising awareness of crimes that occur almost every day on every train,” Vallone said. “Any time you speak to a woman, they’ve all had it happen to them and their friends on more than one occasion. And it’s a mostly unreported crime.”
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.