Internal Reports Show Violence, Arrests at City Shelters Jumped in 2016
As the city's homeless shelters reach near-record levels, violence and arrests at those shelters are climbing too. NY1 has obtained exclusive details of just how pervasive crime is in the shelter system. Our Courtney Gross has this story you will only see on NY1.
For years, stories of violent crime have haunted the city's homeless shelter system.
"It's miserable," one shelter resident said.
Now NY1 has obtained hundreds of internal reports from the city's shelter system from January through June of last year. These reports unveil a system struggling to keep that violence in check, and a crackdown by the NYPD to regain control.
In shelters that house couples and single adults, violence was up last year. Only shelters with families with children saw a decrease.
These reports, at times, provide vivid details of homeless residents attacking one another.
Go back to a report from January of 2016 at a Midtown shelter for men:
It reads one homeless shelter resident pulled out a knife and stabbed another in the chest near his heart. The staff separated the two men, and the NYPD was called.
That's just one assault out of many.
According to the reports, arrests for assaults more than doubled compared to the same time period the year before, climbing to 165 from just 64 in 2015.
The same goes for arrests for drug possession, use, or sale: there were 11 in 2015; in the first six months of 2016, it was 29.
"We want the shelters to be safe, and increased enforcement is part of addressing complaints that clients in shelters have made for many years," said Steven Banks, the commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services.
City officials say the numbers show they are reporting violent incidents more and they are catching the so-called bad actors.
It was early last year when the city's Department of Homeless Services partnered with the NYPD to review its security protocols.
The department retrained security officers in shelters. Now, it oversees security of the entire shelter system.
"We're going to eradicate a level of violence within the shelter system, and if that results in arrests, then yeah, you will see an increase in arrests," NYPD Deputy Chief Edward Thompson said.
Officials say shelters will be safer now that the city police department is overseeing security. But that won't be reflected in the data for months.