An Upper West Side homeless shelter with a controversial history is being blamed by some residents for a spike in crime in the neighborhood, but some wonder if the homeless residents are being unfairly targeted.
All was relatively quiet on West 95th Street as NY1 stopped by the Freedom House, where two buildings house about 400 homeless people, but the group Neighborhood in the Nineties say some shelter residents are bringing more crime and drug dealing to the area.
"I was approached by a shelter resident two nights ago at the corner of 94th and West End, and he started talking to me about what he was selling," said Aaron Biller, president of Neighborhood in the Nineties.
Police recently raided the shelter looking for 35 people with outstanding arrest warrants. The New York City Police Department said it was in response to an 83 percent increase in burglaries in the area this year. Officers said several of those wanted had a history of burglary arrests.
"Undercovers," said one woman who lives in the shelter. "It was blue uniforms. It was DHS police. They come in with undercover cops."
The NYPD and Homeless Services police took 22 people into custody, but homeless advocates say these sorts of tactics discourage people from seeking help.
"It would make a lot more sense for city staff to help people identify if they have warrants and clear them rather than surprising people in the middle of the night and shackling them and bringing them into court," said Joshua Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society.
The Legal Aid Society said it found that in past shelter raids, most people were wanted for minor quality-of-life offenses and not major crimes.
Don Arrup is among some of the longtime tenants at the buildings who rent rooms. He doesn't agree with raids for low-level offenses, but said hardcore criminals shouldn't be here. He says he was threatened by a shelter resident.
"A gentleman who was half my age, twice my size, told me he was going to throw me out the window," Arrup said. "He said it right in front of the guards."
"We should not be introducing criminal element into the community," Biller said. "Again, it's not just us. It's people in the shelter that are having their property stolen, people who may be getting physically assaulted."
Homeless Services said it will continue to work with the NYPD, which could include more early morning sweeps.