Advocates: NYPD conducts warrant sweeps in some homeless shelters

It is against city policy for police to conduct what's known as warrant sweeps in homeless shelters. But advocates are claiming those sweeps are happening anyway. Our Courtney Gross has this report that you will only see on NY1.

Imagine police officers walking up to a homeless shelter at the crack of dawn.

"It was about 4 o clock in the morning and they just came in the room, turned on the lights, and started telling people to get up," said a man named Moorer. "They had a list of people that they were looking for."

One of them was Moorer. He said he was yanked out of a Washington Heights shelter by police because he had an open bench warrant. He missed a court date.

"It was quicker than usually getting arrested," Moorer reflected.

Quick and easy, and what homeless shelter residents and advocates say is happening: warrant sweeps at city homeless shelters. It's something that goes against official city policy.

Six times earlier this year, advocates claim warrant sweeps occurred at shelters across the city.

"We have become aware through our monitoring of the shelter system that the city has routinely conducted warrant sweeps," said Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless.

"Often times when we talk to these folks, it's for low-level offenses like being in the park after hours or public consumption," Routhier continued.

NY1 stopped by one of those shelters in Brooklyn. It did not take long to find someone who said he had been swept up by police for an open bench warrant.

"I saw the police come rush in and arrest everybody for open warrants — minor stuff like open containers, going through the doors in the trains," the man said.

The Department of Homeless Services confirmed that one of the incidents earlier this year did occur: a 6 a.m. sweep at a Manhattan men's shelter.

Officials told NY1 they either had no records on the other dates, or the police activity at the shelter was in response to a specific criminal incident, not a warrant sweep.

"It's not the policy of the city to conduct warrant sweeps in shelters. To protect safety of clients and staff, NYPD may seek to identify specific individuals with open felony warrants or may conduct an operation to address specific criminal activity or in pursuit of a suspect," a Department of Homeless Services spokesman said.

The city is trying to encourage people to come into shelter instead of sleeping on the streets.

So the question is, Will these alleged sweeps change anyone's mind?

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