Criminals are creatures of habit. If they commit burglary and are released without punishment, they tend to return to break-ins. Well, likewise, if they have a penchant for sabotaging or damaging public transportation and they are released without bail, they tend to do it again. New York is now learning this basic lesson in criminology the hard way with Demetrius Harvard.
Early Sunday morning, a Manhattan subway car was derailed after hitting a metal pipe thrown on the tracks. It caused one of New York's worst subway crashes in years, with hundreds of feet of electrified rail damaged or destroyed as well as the rail car. Fortunately, only three passengers sustained minor injuries. The good news is that there was no malfunction in the rail or on the tracks. The bad news is that it was caused by a saboteur who was caught by passengers while laughing about tossing the metal onto the tracks. He was held down until police arrived. So who is Demetrius Harvard?
Harvard, 30, is another career criminal who was allowed to remain on the streets despite his clear threat to public safety. According to the New York Post, Harvard had just been in court 15 days earlier for allegedly striking an MTA bus with a metal street barricade and shattering two windows. Despite this, prosecutors didn't even ask that he be held on bail. He was released immediately.
Even worse, at the time of the initial incident, he had an open warrant for not showing up in court for another violent incident. Earlier this year, he was arrested for allegedly swinging a metal pipe at two Boost store employees and then throwing a metal trash can at the exterior of the store. According to court records, he also pleaded guilty to making terrorist threats in 2010 and had other arrests for assault and criminal mischief. Harvard, who is believed to be homeless and mentally ill, was clearly known as a public safety threat during the Sept. 5 hearing after the first public transit sabotage incident. How could such a man be released in a functioning criminal justice system?
The answer is that New York no longer has a functioning criminal justice system. Its "reforms" were never about first-time, nonviolent offenders. Even the most violent criminals seem to be released despite their past records.
Additionally, New York is clearly headed back to the 1970s era with violence on the subways. Several weeks ago, a woman was almost raped in broad daylight by a career criminal who was later released with relatively low bail.
According to new data from the NYPD, there were 110 major felonies reported on subways in August. While those numbers were lower than this time last year (crime was already rising then), those numbers are shocking because ridership is down 75% due to fears of the virus. Factoring in the reduced population traveling every day, that is a doubling of criminal incidents per capita. The culprit? According to the New York Daily News, "NYPD subway arrests fell by 80% and summonses dropped by 95% in August compared with the year before, data shows."
And of course, even if they are arrested, they are released multiple times.When deterrent goes down, crime goes up. Do we want to see the next scene in this horror movie?