Assaulting a New Jersey Transit conductor, bus driver or other transit employee now carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison.

The number of violent incidents involving passengers and transit employees has been steadily rising during the pandemic, often spurred by a refusal to comply with mask mandates on trains and busses.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation raising fines and jailtime for assaulting any public or private transit employee who is “targeted because of their job."

It raises such assaults to a third degree crime punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.

“These essential safeguards will promote better environments for passengers and employees,” Murphy said in a statement.

"In New Jersey, assaults on NJ Transit workers have increased and become more violent with passengers refusing to follow the federal mask mandate on public transit.” - ATU Chairman, Orlando Riley.

While violent incidents on airplanes have made headlines and produced viral videos, but there has also been an alarming rise in assaults of crew members on mass transit systems.

According to transit union officials, there were 82 reported assaults of bus drivers and 52 assaults of rail crew members through September 2021.

One of the most recent incidents involved a passenger pulling a knife on a conductor when he was asked to mask up.

Even before the pandemic, assaults on NJT crew members were rising amid a decline in the quality of service.

During a legislative hearing in 2018, Steve Burkert, general chairman for SMART Local 60, told lawmakers, "I've had two female conductors physically thrown off trains by angry commuters. I've had other people in the past year who have been so brutally beaten they can no longer return to work."

In 2019 a man was charged with assaulting and robbing a pregnant on-duty NJ Transit bus driver.

Transit police have stepped up patrols on busses, trains, in stations and on platforms to both enforce mask mandates and provide greater security to transit crew members.

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