Last year, after several NY1 reports on violence in homeless shelters, the city vowed to make them safer. Now, the NYPD will be taking a much more active role in shelter security. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Homeless people have long complained that city shelters are often violent and dangerous.
The police department now says it will oversee security at the shelters, taking over that responsibility from the Department of Homeless Services.
"Given the tremendous success that NYPD has had in addressing crime in New York City overall, we consider this a very significant step forward," said Steven Banks, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration.
Homeless services officers, who do not carry guns, will still patrol and secure the facilities, but they will now report directly to NYPD managers.
This follows the city's decision last March to have the NYPD retrain those peace officers in how to deal with violent people, as well as those suffering from drug use and mental illness.
"To date, we have trained over 700 of the peace officers," said NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker.
Last year, in a series of reports on shelter violence, NY1 obtained records that revealed 416 reported cases of domestic violence in family shelters in 2015 and 153 assaults in shelters for single people. There were 90 reported sexual assaults, rapes and attempted rapes, and plenty of illegal drug use.
The NYPD moved in to assess the problems. Police say arrests have gone up.
"The more illegal items, or controlled substances, we apprehend or we capture before they get into the system," said NYPD Deputy Chief Edward Thompson. "The better environment the clients are in, the less likely there are for violence or physical incidents."
In the past, the NYPD has faced complaints about its alleged mistreatment of the homeless. Advocates will be watching to see how the NYPD adapts to its new role overseeing shelter safety.
At this point, the NYPD says it doesn't plan to place its officers inside the shelters. But some shelter offficers will have police radios for immediate communication with the NYPD.
"As NY1 reported, we revamped the way we report critical incidents," Banks said.
The city has not yet disclosed how many crimes occurred in shelters last year, but the NYPD says it will regularly require the shelters to provide crime statistics, just like police precincts do.