New York has become Dodge City, because of laws without consequences and judges who practice revolving-door-justice.
Don’t believe me? Read The Post any day of the week and you’ll find stories about brazen daylight shootings, jewelry store smash-and-grabs, shameless shoplifting and tales of serial offenders wreaking mayhem across the five boroughs.
It’s particularly personal for me given my close encounter with a homeless emotionally disturbed person on an 6 train in The Bronx early this year.
Readers may recall my wife and I encountered a young, disheveled and barefoot man standing over and threatening an older rider with a blade. The man, later identified by police as Johnathan Gonzalez, threatened to cut the other passenger’s throat, dared anyone to stop him and ranted about getting “three squares a day” on Rikers.
I distracted him long enough for the other guy to get away. After getting off the train at the Parkchester station, I called 911 and NYPD cops caught up to him a few station stops later.
Subways in chaos
Gonzalez was arrested, sent to a local hospital for evaluation and later charged with menacing by The Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
The case is still open. Gonzalez failed to show up for his March court date and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Since then, he has been arrested seven or eight times on petit larceny shoplifting charges on the Upper East Side — yet still isn’t being held.
Since shoplifting isn’t a bail-eligible crime, Gonzalez can’t be remanded. And for some reason, Manhattan judges appear reluctant to hold him on the Bronx warrant — likely only urging him to return to the Bronx court.
It’s maddening. Gonzalez most likely suffers from a mental illness. He’s obviously not getting the help he so clearly needs. Yet Manhattan judges believe that he’s capable of making his court dates.
The whole catch-and-release approach to recidivist shoplifters in Manhattan is disheartening and undermines public confidence in our court system.
I’m an inveterate subway rider. I refuse to be deterred from my daily commute because we can’t cede ground to crime and disorder.
On a recent morning commute, I avoided a subway car where a muttering, shoeless vagrant was seated in the corner. And in the car where I settled down, I spotted a homeless man covered with a white bedsheet lying asleep across one of the train car’s benches.
I looked out of the car at the MTA subway cleaners before realizing that there was little that they could do — or should do.
At the same station last month, their co-worker Anthony Nelson was hospitalized with a broken collarbone, dislocated nose and other injuries after trying to stop another demented homeless serial arrestee (42 arrests at last count) from harassing straphangers.
That suspect, Alexander Wright, one of several revolving-door-justice poster boys, sits in Rikers awaiting trial for this latest assault. Nelson’s family and the Transport Workers Union have rallied around him in urging that his attacker be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Meanwhile, the MTA is looking to ask the court to ban Wright from the subway system for three years. And those who assault transit workers and menace commuters need to understand that criminal behavior has consequences.
Those persons shown to suffer from severe mental illness need to be held accountable and, from a humanitarian perspective, they need mental-health treatment in an appropriate setting given their crimes.
The EDP situation on the subway continues to be 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 puts public safety at risk and does nothing to provide them the necessary care.
Mayor Adams definitely doesn’t have the subway situation under control. He needs Albany lawmakers and judges to cooperate with his effort to make the transit system safer.
Former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin is a member of The Post’s editorial board.