You Can’t Take The A Train

A New York City subway car during rush hour is a vicious place, with people packed like sardines, pushing to get into a blocked door, as people push to get out, knowing that the next train could be right behind or 15 minutes away. If the latter, you’re late for work, having already waited 15 minutes for the train to come. The longer the wait, the more packed the train and the more desperate riders on the platform to force their way on.

And bodies touch. Hands touch. Torsos too. One person pushes and five others push back.

Sometimes, the groin of one person rubs against the body of another. Sometimes, it’s because of the laws of physics. Sometimes, it’s because the person whose groin does the rubbing is engaged in a sexual assault. There is no doubt it happens, and many women on the train can attest that they have felt a groin push up against them, grinding. Some scream. Some punch. Some freeze, not certain what to do, not certain if this is the errant groin on a packed train or a perv getting his thrills.

This is, without a doubt, a problem. Hence, the syllogism kicks in*, and the brain trust of New York that can’t manage to make the trains run on time, or at all in some instances, has come up with a solution.

The police officers who patrol New York City’s transit system are constantly scanning subway stations looking for a familiar set of faces: repeat sexual offenders who have arrest records.

The officers follow them through jam-packed platforms and onto crowded trains, waiting to see if they grope, grind, molest or indecently expose themselves again.

There may be the rare cop who looks for familiar faces, although in a city of 8 million, it’s hard to remember them all. But would a beat cop know of “repeat sexual offenders who have arrest records”? This facially incongruous sentence is of the sort that would make anyone familiar with law cringe. Arrest records are meaningless. Convictions are meaningful. They aren’t “repeat sexual offenders” without convictions, not that a cop is aware of random people’s arrest or conviction records.

Sure, there may be the guy in the raincoat on the platform at 23rd Street, but if he’s there enough for a cop to be familiar with him, he’ll be thrown against the wall, kicked in the head a few times, then thrown out before he gets the chance to flash. NYPD cops aren’t so shy as to wait. After he gets the standard “tune up” a few times, the message gets through.

Beyond that, they have no clue who might grind. It happens on trains, and trains travel throughout the city, and one day a perv may touch a woman in the Bronx while the next day at Bowling Green.

But now, lawmakers and police officials are pushing a dramatic measure: On Monday, a city councilman, Chaim M. Deutsch, introduced a bill that would bar repeat sexual offenders from the subway system for life.

The New York City council has been on a roll of late, enacting dumb and dumber laws reflecting the passion of the day without any notion of unintended consequences. The subway system is public, not just a benefit for all people in New York City, but a necessity if one is to get to work or go most places. Driving is generally not a viable substitute, and every New Yorker contributes financially to the existence of the subway in one way or another.

“If someone shoplifts in a store, and they are a recidivist, then that person could be banned from walking into the store,” said Mr. Deutsch, who represents parts of Brooklyn.

It would be nice if someone could explain to the city councilman in small words why a private actor in a private enterprise isn’t comparable to a public facility.

“This should not be any different,” added Mr. Deutsch, who said he was prompted to pursue the bill by an article in The New York Post about the challenges the police face in thwarting repeat subway sexual offenses.

The Post’s article proffers a few individuals, “recidivists” with voluminous arrest records, though without mention of convictions, The Post refers to them as “the dirty dozen.” So this is about a dozen widely-known pervs?

A dirty dozen transit deviants are driving subway sex crimes through the roof with their refusal to stay away, arrest after arrest, leaving the cops who are tasked with policing the pervs frustrated by the lack of a more permanent solution.

But the law to ban them “for life” from the subway won’t apply just to these dirty dozen “creeps,” but to anyone the cops choose to target. It will allow the cops to throw people out of the subway at will, to deny them the means to travel on the public mass transit system. And if their “offense” is the inadvertent rubbing that happens without intent, the innocent will be swept together with the guilty, but for the fact that “guilt” is at the whim of the police.

“This is one of these issues that I think common sense needs to prevail,” [Governor Andrew Cuomo] told reporters in Albany on Tuesday, adding that groping and grinding was “a major problem.”

A precedent for such measures, the governor said, already existed because of laws that prohibit sexual offenders released from prison from living near schools.

When the best the governor can offer is common sense, he’s shooting blanks. But the comparison to the nightmarish problems generated by prohibitions against the “sexual offender,” convicted of sending a sext message to her boyfriend, from living in two-thirds of a city or going to student-teacher conferences to discuss her daughter’s education a decade later, isn’t exactly the precedent one would seek to perpetuate, no less expand upon.

The law proposed by Councilman Deutsch, according the Times, isn’t likely to pass, but the fact that such a misbegotten and dangerous fix is even considered, no less somewhat endorsed by the likes of the governor, reminds us how close we remain to the new carceral idiocracy replacing the old.

No one takes lightly sexual assault on the subway or anywhere else, but creating a new sphere of people to be banned at the whim of police from the use of public facilities may be the “something” in the syllogism, and just as wrong an answer as one would expect.

*The syllogism:

Something must be done.
This is something.
This must be done.

12 thoughts on “You Can’t Take The A Train

  1. Joe O.

    No job, no housing, no public transit for you, you are now homeless.
    You have failed to show up for your quarterly registration.
    You are a per se violator of the registration statute and you will go to prison for two years.
    We will see you again in two to four years to repeat this process.

      1. Joe O.

        I got shouted at for being a perv apologist when I was in high school. My classmates couldn’t figure out why I was offended by local law enforcement inviting Chris Hansen to do a little “sting.” Then I pointed out that we had a predator teacher for years and nobody said shit. The room got real quiet. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

  2. Skink

    Shouldn’t there be education from failed experiments? Isn’t that the function of experiments?

    Nearly 15 years ago, some bright Miami minds took on the problem of sex offenders. Not predators, but mere offenders. The solution to their living in the midst of others was to ban them from living within a half-mile of any schools, which was added to the 1000-foot buffers around schools, playgrounds and bus stops created by state law. Because there really is geography, the only remaining legal residences were at the airport or in the Everglades. *

    There was one other–under the bridge on one of the roads leading to Miami Beach. So, there they live, in tents. It has a fabulous view of Biscayne Bay. The numbers have grown, as probation officers drop the offenders there with the admonition to be sure to change their official address.

    The Miami experiment is a failure that any dope could have predicted. What do The City geniuses plan to do with a few thousand people regulated into walking wherever they need to go?

    *Not my part of the Swamp. Not because I’m a NIMBY, but because the part of the Swamp near Miami is still like Miami.

  3. Igor Kaplunov

    Reading about things like this makes me realize how happy I am to be a small fish in this giant ocean living a nice boring life. The news and episodes of black mirror seem to be converging.

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