Several subway lines in Queens have seen a 109 percent spike in groping incidents this year, prompting police to deploy extra officers to subway stations and trains to try to catch predators, according to officials.
Transit District 20, which encompasses the 7, E, F, G, R, J, Z, N and Q lines in Queens, has seen 23 forcible touching incidents from January to June this year, the NYPD said. Last year during the same time period, there were 11 reported forcible touching incidents.
On Thursday night, police announced an additional assault on a Manhattan-bound E train in Long Island City, part of Transit District 20. A man sat down next to a woman just before 8 a.m. and began touching her leg, according to police. When the woman told the man to stop, he allegedly elbowed and punched her in the face, then ran off the train. Police are searching for the suspect (pictured at right). The victim received bruising to her face and refused medical treatment at the scene.
Women on the subway said they make it a point to be cautious but the recent crime numbers have them even more concerned.
"I always ride the subway with my son, and you can never be too careful, especially as a woman," said Emily Richardson of Far Rockaway.
Christine Sienty of Rego Park said, "When the train's crowded and it's rush hour, it's usually harder to separate yourself from that. So you definitely have to be more aware, especially now."
The NYPD said it has dispatched more plainclothes officers in the transit district to try and stop the perpetrators in action. It has also deployed more uniformed officers to certain trains and stations.
Heidi Chain, the president of the 112th Precinct Council, which encompasses Forest Hills and Rego Park, said she has met with the commanding officer of Transit District 20, and the two are working to make the public aware of the increase in forcible touching incidents.
Chain advises women to be especially cautious of people who may be lingering too closely during rush hour.
"If someone is standing too close behind you, walk away. Be aware of it, because it's happening during rush hour," she said.
She urged victims to continue reporting the crimes.
"If it happens to you, you're really doing a community service to fill out the report and get involved," she said.