2017-01-11 / Front Page

NYPD Takes Over Security At City Homeless Shelters

By Liz Goff
Officials announced last week that the NYPD has been handed the task of overseeing security at the city’s troubled homeless shelters.

City Human Resources commissioner Steven Banks and NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker boasted the achievements of a team of police officers deployed last spring to oversee security at the shelters. The team was so successful that it has been expanded to include 22 officers on a permanent basis, Tucker said.
The new NYPD Shelter Management Team will oversee 123 Department of Homeless Services (DHS) security supervisors who, in turn, supervise the 700 DHS peace officers who work at the shelters, Tucker said.
The team will also increase training of DHS peace officers, and handle crime in homeless shelters with a Compstat-like system that will help track crime  
NYPD Deputy Chief Edward Thompson, who heads the Shelter Management Team, said his officers will deal with crime in the shelters with a Compstat like system that will allow them to analyze crime data and decide where to deploy the DHS peace officers.
“Analytic review of data is critically important,” Thompson said. “And what we are doing now is putting these systems in place.”
The 700 DHS peace officers assigned to the shelters have been trained by the NYPD officers on access control, dealing with the mentally ill, preventing domestic violence, keeping weapons out of shelters, proper searching strategies, crisis management and defusing violence, officials said.
Officials said DHS shelter supervisors will continue to be armed with tasers and the peace officers will remain unarmed.
Banks said the presence of NYPD officers has led to fewer illegal drugs and less violence inside the shelters. “This is an important step toward enhancing safety for New Yorkers in our shelter system,” Banks declared.
Peace officers in Queens expressed concern for their personal safety in a system that places discharged Rikers Island inmates in the shelters. “Most people are unaware that when an inmate’s family refuses to allow him or her back home, they are deemed homeless and placed in the shelter system,” a Queens peace officer said. “The shelters have become an extension of Rikers Island, so we should at least have a team of armed guards in the shelters to help handle the inmates.”
Residents in the Dutch Kills community in Long Island City have been trying to figure out how the city chooses clients for its homeless shelters. And why so many people with a history of mental or psychiatric conditions are dumped in the shelter system rather than being placed in facilities where they can obtain proper care and services.
Case in point is a homeless shelter for 200 women located at the former Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th Street in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City.
The shelter opened without prior notice to the community just over a year ago, under an emergency declaration signed by Mayor Bill deBlasio.
Dutch Kills Civic Association resident George Stamatiades provided the Gazette with a series of crime statistics the group obtained regarding a shelter located in the former Verve Hotel on 29th Street in Long Island City.
NYPD statistics show that officers at the 114th Precinct have made 30 arrests at the Verve Homeless Shelter in the last 12 months, including: five felony arrests, one misdemeanor assault on a police officer, two arrests for weapons possession, one grand larceny, two felony mischief, one menacing, one petit larceny, one resisting arrest, two criminal possession of a controlled substance and 15 arrests for third-degree assault. Officers have also issued 10 criminal court summonses to shelter clients.
Police, fire and emergency medical responders answered 825 “911” calls at the Verve homeless shelter since it was opened in November 2015. Most called for response by one NYPD vehicle with two officers. But in some cases, as many as10 police officers, in 5 NYPD cruisers were called to the scene to restore order.
Each of the 911 calls brought one fire engine with 4-to-5 firefighters and one supervisor to the scene. On many occasions, multiple units were called to the scene to provide backup and medical assistance.
Each call brought at least one ambulance with two FDNY emergency medical technicians to the scene.
According to a census released by shelter manager, Acacia Network, there are currently 180 women living in the Dutch Kills shelter dubbed “Pam’s Place.” Fifty of those women are employed and close to living on their own, while 110 to 120 of the women have a history of psychiatric problems or suffer from a mental illness. The census further stated that 87 clients had a history of substance abuse and 93 are receiving mental health treatment.
“The city’s recent decision to put the NYPD in charge of shelter security does not fix the administration’s policy of dumping the mentally ill and former prisoners in inappropriate facilities,” Stamatiades said. “The NYPD will undoubtedly continue to achieve success in restructuring security in the homeless shelters,” he said. “What will it take for the city to admit that it is wrong to place the mentally ill in inappropriate facilities to save money?”

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