NYC subway slay is sad proof that working from home is safer
So now everyone at Goldman Sachs knows that a colleague, 48-year-old Daniel Enriquez, was shot by a stranger at point-blank range riding the subway Sunday to mid-morning brunch, dying in the Q train car.
How do you think that’s going to work out for getting bankers and other professionals back into Manhattan?
There have been 18 victims of subway homicide since March 2020, each one a preventable tragedy. And each one has a message to the rest of New York that it’s unsafe to ride the rails.
Traveling across the Manhattan Bridge from affluent Park Slope to affluent Manhattan, Enriquez was minding his business on a ho-hum ride. Then a person on the train car, pacing up and down, picked him.
Whether the suspect was motivated by racial animus, a perceived slight, or nothing — who knows?
There’s nothing Enriquez could have done to prevent his own death — except not take the subway.
In this, Enriquez has a grim postmortem kinship with Michelle Go, the 40-year-old Deloitte executive shoved by a stranger to her death under a Times Square train in January. Like Enriquez, Go, once in the subway system, was defenseless.
Go’s death shocked her Deloitte colleagues, and Enriquez’s murder will do the same for people in the close-knit financial industry.
If you’re a white-collar worker, you can still convince yourself, most of the time, that you are pretty safe from violent crime and that you can make yourself safer: Don’t wear your expensive watch outside. Don’t wander the streets at 2 am
So the more than 50 percent increase in murders over the past two years largely doesn’t affect the Park-Slope-to-Tribeca crowd.
Except for subway crime. Transit violence does affect—literally, in this case—the brunch crowd. It is so rattling because it is almost entirely random. In 16 of the 18 subway murders over 26 months, only two perpetrators are believed to have known their victims.
Go and Enriquez represent half of this year’s subway-murder victims. It’s hard to remember the last year that two professional workers lost their lives to random violence on the daytime subway. But you’d have to go back to—yes—the early 1990s.
Effects of COVID
Until COVID, the near nonexistence of violent crime on the subways was a proxy for the near nonexistence of truly random crime in the city. Between 1997 and 2019, one or two people a year were murdered on the subway, against nearly 2 billion passengers.
Before COVID hit, it took 11 years — 2009 to 2019 — for 18 people to lose their lives on the subway, the same number of lives lost since COVID.
So we’ve compressed more than a decade of subway murders into little more than two years.
This is a dizzying change in public safety, and a far greater change than anything happening above ground. We’ve gone from essentially no risk to an unpredictable but real risk.
If you are an affluent investment-bank researcher, corporate consultant, lawyer or techie, it’s perfectly rational to avoid the subway. The 40% of “missing” riders, relative to 2019, are mostly people who don’t have to take the train if they don’t want to.
The transit-advocacy community can argue all it wants that the train is still pretty safe if you’re not the unlucky target who stands out for some reason to the crazy killer. But nobody wants to risk being trapped between stops with an armed insane person.
And as my friend who avoids the subway told me recently, he’s not really that worried about being murdered. He’s just tired of the constant harassment, which is a near-certainty on any ride.
No law & order
The mayor is doing what he can, or some of what he can. Police enforcement of things like fare-beating was up 61% last month, since last April. The number of civilian summonses is back up to pre-COVID levels.
But arrests remain down. And the people the police do arrest in the subway, including for gun possession, are put right back on the street by prosecutors, judges and lawmakers. The suspect in Enriquez’s death, Andrew Abdullah, has a long violent history.
Last week, Mayor Adams urged JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon to take the train, to create a good example. But Enriquez is the example that the work-from-home crowd sees.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.