Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and SMART (Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation) Transportation Division leaders today recognized Suffolk County’s implementation of the first transit ban in the history of the MTA. Defendant Michael Harewood pleaded guilty in Suffolk County Supreme Court to sex abuse in the 3rd degree, and as a condition of the sentence, the defendant agreed to a ban from using the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) for two years.
Additionally, an order of protection was issued to the LIRR conductor who was attacked in this case. The ban was made possible through a New York State Law that allows for those committing crimes against transit workers or sex offenses in public transportation to be banned for up to three years.
"This case demonstrates the urgency of our call for the justice system to pursue bans for those criminals who seek to target transit workers or customers,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “We must do everything in our power to keep riders and workers safe, and by banning this criminal from the system, the Court has done just that. He’s a bad actor who was clearly using the railroad not for transportation but to commit crimes; that won’t happen for the next two years with this individual.”
"Long Island Rail Road customers and workers can ride easier today, knowing that a criminal with a history of preying on railroad workers is banned from the rails,” said LIRR Interim President and Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi. “We appreciate the effort of the Suffolk County DA and the Courts to ensure the plea deal included the defendant forfeiting his right to use the LIRR until almost the start of 2025.”
“Our organization has been working tirelessly with the MTA to make sure LIRR front line conductors as well as all employees and customers can travel safely,” said Anthony Simon, SMART General Chairman. “This is a step in the right direction, and we want to see more perpetrators that commit any type of crime or assault against our members and our customers banned from our system. I will, as the leader of our organization, continue to fight for even more severe penalties for those individuals who assault our LIRR employees. Thank you Chair Lieber and President Rinaldi for standing with us in this fight.”
The MTA and SMART LIRR union have been collaborating on ways to make travel on the railroad as safe as possible for customers and the LIRR’s workforce. The partnership has focused on harnessing the State’s penal code to maximum effect, by expanding the scope of those who are eligible to be banned from the transit system. Excluding those who would prey on employees and riders is one of the tools that can be effective in preventing crime, given the disproportionate number of offenses committed by recidivist perpetrators.
Recent completion of megaprojects such as LIRR Third Track has contributed to an increase in the number of riders in the transit system. With record numbers of riders returning to the LIRR, the MTA and SMART have committed to using every possible tool to maximize safety.