Slashing attacks put NYC on edge

Ms Amanda Morris, one of the victims, is seen here in a screen grab from a YouTube video of a CBS News interview. She was attacked by a stranger this month on her way to work at Whole Foods in Chelsea, New York.
Ms Amanda Morris, one of the victims, is seen here in a screen grab from a YouTube video of a CBS News interview. She was attacked by a stranger this month on her way to work at Whole Foods in Chelsea, New York.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

Residents rattled as no clear motive or pattern is detected in more than 10 cases

NEW YORK • A 71-year-old grandmother sitting by herself on a subway car in Lower Manhattan. A 30-year-old man walking down a street in the East Village, listening to music and enjoying a leisurely afternoon. A 24-year-old woman heading to work in Chelsea.

All were slashed by men wielding knives or razors in New York City.

At least nine other men and women have been similarly attacked in recent months in a rash of slashings that have put many on edge.

The crime, with no discernible motive and no particular pattern besides absolute randomness, is causing a particular kind of dread in a city where strangers often find themselves side by side in subway cars or on crowded pavements. "It is alarming to people," New York Police Department Transit Bureau chief Joseph Fox said. "Everyone sees themselves in that place."

Last week, Mr Anthony Christopher Smith, 30, was slashed on a street in the mid-afternoon. "I had my earbuds on," he recalled after receiving more than 150 stitches. "And someone - probably from behind - just shoved me against the wall, and cursed, and you know, I kind of fell to the ground."

The man sliced him up and down his face and neck. Francis Salud, 28, was arrested last week and charged. He had been arrested over a knife attack last October, police said.

Ms Amanda Morris, 24, was cut by a stranger this month as she was walking to her job at supermarket chain Whole Foods. "I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and put in an unfortunate situation," she said.

Mr Fox said in about half of the subway slashings there was some sort of dispute between the assailant and the victim before the attack. But as was the case with the 71-year-old woman assaulted on Monday, there have been cases in which there was "absolutely no prior contact", he said. A suspect has been arrested in that case.

Mr Fox said that in the wake of the recent attacks, police were studying the trends and shifting officers. But just on Tuesday night, there were two more seemingly random and separate assaults.

At a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting on Wednesday, board vice-chairman Fernando Ferrer said the authority was working with the police to respond to the attacks. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton played down the idea there was a copycat at work. "Each one seems to have its own motivation," he said. But his chief of detectives Robert Boyce said the recent string of attacks were "a little unusual for us".

Across the city, people responded with a mix of resignation and wariness. Artist Lynn Marrapodi, 70, entered a station on Wednesday and stood with her back against the wall. "I never did that before," she said, "but after the last two incidents, I have been more cautious than ever."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Slashing attacks put NYC on edge'. Print Edition | Subscribe