A man and a woman were stabbed to death on New York City subway trains on Friday night, the police said, and two other people were stabbed but survived. Law enforcement officials said that all the attacks may have been committed by the same person and that they believed that all four victims were homeless.
The fatal stabbings, 25 miles apart but both on the A line, come amid a recent spate of violence in the subways, with an apparent rash of people getting pushed onto tracks, slashed and beaten.
The first killing was reported shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday aboard an A train stopped at the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station in Queens. The police said they found a man with numerous stab wounds to the neck and torso on a seat in the train.
Two hours later, shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday, the police said, a 44-year-old woman with stab wounds throughout her body was found under a seat on a northbound A train stopped at the Inwood-207 Street station in Upper Manhattan. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene; the police did not release the names of either one.
On Saturday morning, investigators were canvassing the four locations where they said people had been savagely stabbed. Three of the incidents occurred within a short time span and close to each other.
“Examining the proximity of the three crimes and the short time span in which they occurred, we are examining that a single perpetrator is behind all four incidents,” a law enforcement official said.
One of the victims who survived was in “very serious condition” at a hospital, the police said. Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea is expected to address the killings at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
Even though the subways have only a fraction of the ridership they had before the pandemic, violent crimes have persisted and at times increased. For 2020 through mid-November, there were more incidents of felony assault, rape, homicide and robbery in the subways than during the same period in 2019.
Since then, attacks have continued. In January, a homeless man named Khari Covington was charged with nine assaults on women dating back months, most of them at a subway station in Brooklyn.
Several attacks in the stations appeared to have been committed by people who are homeless and have mental illness, feeding a debate on how to help the hundreds of people who shelter in the transit system.
According to the most recent statistics, crime in the transit system in January 2021 was down more than 50 percent from January 2020, but subway ridership was down about 70 percent during that time, making crime that occurs there stand out.
So far in February, at least five people were slashed on trains or in stations, a 26-year-old man was shoved to the tracks in the financial district by an apparently mentally ill man, and a woman was shoved off a subway platform in the Bronx by a woman in what appeared to be another unprovoked attack.
In recent years, transit officials and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who controls the transit agency, have been pushing to expand policing in the subway. In 2019, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways, approved a $249 million plan to hire 500 additional transit officers; about 200 of them have been hired.
On Saturday, Sarah Feinberg, interim president of the M.T.A.’s subway agency, and Tony Utano, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, released a joint statement calling for increased police presence on the subway.
“The recent horrifying attacks in the subway system are outrageous and unacceptable,” the statement read. “We have been calling on the city to add more police to the system, and to do more to assist those who desperately need mental health assistance. The time for action is now.”