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Underground Unrest: Rash Of Unprovoked Subway Attacks Has New York Straphangers Spooked

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Straphangers across New York were on edge Monday after a recent string of unprovoked attacks in the city's subway system.

In the most recent case, sources tell CBS2 the alleged assailant now behind bars has been arrested 64 times. He was taken to NYC Health+Hospitals/Bellevue for a mental health evaluation while one of his victims hopes the city does more to stop a similar attack from happening again.

Pictures from the scene at Columbus Circle appearing to show an agitated homeless man being restrained by several passersby shortly after the Monday morning attack are just the latest example of underground unrest in the Big Apple.

"I was in shock," one of the victims told CBS2. "I jumped back off the train immediately to try to snap a picture and call 911."

The woman, who doesn't wish to be identified, says she took the pictures of the man after he allegedly punched her and two other women on the B train around 10 a.m. as it approached the Midtown station.

"As soon as he came in he punched the first woman and tried to hurry and get out of his way, he went by me slightly and turned around and punched me in the head and then he ran," the woman said. "As he was running out the door he went and punched this Asian woman in her face."

The victim says the attack left the last woman with a swollen and bloodied face. The seemingly random crime follows video the NYPD released this weekend of a man waving a knife at a rider aboard the E train at West 4th Street. Just over a week ago, police say a panhandler fractured a commuter's skull after beating him with a metal object.

In Monday's melee, the victim says bystanders acted quickly to hold her alleged attacker until police arrived. Despite the string of incidents, the NYPD says subway violence is down roughly five percent compared to last year. Transit Chief Edward Delatorre says more uniformed and plainclothes officers are making a dent along with proactive riders.

"People aren't getting away with crimes in the subway system like they did decades ago," Delatorre told CBS2's Valerie Castro. "Just about every commuter is armed with a cell phone, taking pictures of people who do commit these crimes."

Some say it's not enough, and argue the city needs to do more to help people with mental illness. The victim in Monday's attack says it's "running rampant."

"We're doing what we can to connect them to the services they need," Delatorre said.

The man arrested Monday was last arrested two years ago for public urination at a subway station in Brooklyn, according to police.

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