Serial sex offenders face New York subway ban after 10% rise in attacks

Daniel Bates

New York could ban serial sex offenders from the subway following a 10 per cent rise in the number of attacks.

Under new proposals, those convicted of more than two offences could be barred from the transit system for life. There would also be harsh penalties for those who breach the ban.

The proposed crackdown has been backed by New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio and New York state governor Andrew Cuomo, who share responsibility for the subway. Among those supporting the lifetime ban is New York City councilman Chaim Deutsch. He said letting prolific offenders take the subway was “tantamount to welcoming a paedophile into a school”.

Detectives say there has been a 10 per cent increase so far this year in subway sex crimes, mainly triggered by a handful of repeat offenders such as James Hunt, 41, who has 78 arrests including 32 for sex crimes on the transit system. Hunt allegedly likes to touch himself while sucking his thumb. Police are hampered as they have to wait until attackers commit another crime before they can arrest them.

Mr Cuomo added: “I understand civil rights and civil liberties and access to transportation. But if you are convicted of two sexual offences on the subway system where groping, touching and grinding is a major problem — and recidivism is a major problem — I fully support saying after the second conviction you’re banned from going back to the subway.” Mr de Blasio said he had spoken with New York Police commissioner James O’Neill and that they were working on legislation to “go at these predators and get them off the subway”.

Last year, there were 866 complaints of sex crimes on the system, according to the NYPD’s statistics, and 373 arrests. The figures have gone up more than 100 per cent in the past decade.

Among the recent cases was that of a 15-year-old girl who reported that a man in his sixties rubbed himself against her before running off. A New York “peace officer”, responsible for patrolling city buildings, was also arrested over allegations he groped a woman in a subway station in Chinatown.

London has also seen a rise in sexual offences on the Tube. British Transport Police figures show attacks rose from 925 to 1,047 between November 2017 and September 2018, an increase of 13 per cent. The number of reported offences has also risen since 2014 following the launch of a text message service to encourage victims to report offenders. Sex attackers on the Tube can be banned but judges must impose the order.