(The Center Square) – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a measure to increase penalties for anyone who assaults a transit worker in the state.
S-4071, the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act, upgrades assaulting a transit employee from a fourth-degree crime to a third-degree crime.
The measure allows carriers to suspend or prohibit anyone who assaults transit employees from riding. It also requires NJ Transit to equip buses and trains with communications systems to quickly alert law enforcement in an emergency.
“It is critical that we protect New Jersey’s frontline transportation workers who provide vital services to commuters across our state,” Murphy said in a statement. “These essential safeguards will promote better environments for passengers and employees.”
The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) estimated the bill would lead to an “indeterminate increase” in expenditures and revenues for the state.
NJ Transit reported 82 assaults of bus operators between January and September 2021, and 52 assaults of rail crews during that time. It also reported 32 assaults of rail crews and 81 assaults of bus operators during the same period in 2020.
The agency said it made arrests for 45 crew assaults between January and September 2021, up from 26 arrests during the same period in 2020.
“Since the pandemic, mass transit employees have put their lives on the line while being asked to do more than ever before,” Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, said in a statement.
“We need to do a better job of protecting our front-line mass transit workers while sending a strong message to passengers that assaults will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Wirths added. “Upgrading fines and implementing additional safety measures will go a long way toward ensuring a smoother ride for employees and law-abiding passengers alike.”