From New York Daily News:
The de Blasio administration claims in its official report on homeless shelter safety that in 2017 there were zero cases of drug possession, drug sales or drug use inside the Bedford-Atlantic Armory shelter in Crown Heights.
This statistic was a big surprise to the Department of Homeless Services police who are assigned to enforce order inside and around the sprawling Brooklyn shelter — one of the biggest in the city.
Internal crime reports obtained by the Daily News show that Homeless Services Department police responded to 113 narcotics-related incidents at the armory last year. During that time they made 51 narcotics-related arrests — an average of about one a week.
This was not the only surprise.
Homeless Services claimed to the public that in all of 2017, there were only 29 so-called “critical incidents,” such as fights and weapons possession, inside the armory shelter.
In fact, there were 89 arrests there, and Homeless Services Department police responded to 865 requests for assistance at the armory for a catalog of crimes from assault to theft, along with reports of intoxicated clients, mentally unstable clients and a long list of other disturbances.
That means that on average, Homeless Services Department cops responded to calls at the armory more than twice a day, every day.
And the armory is far from unique. The News obtained internal department police reports laying out in vivid detail all the criminal activity that took place last year inside 20 other shelters from Brooklyn to the Bronx.
These reports show that the city’s new official list of “critical incidents” is, at best, insufficiently candid and, at worst, wildly sanitized.
In February, The News disclosed that the de Blasio administration last year quietly redefined its quantification of safety in city-run shelters.
Declaring that its protocol for tracking incidents was exaggerating safety concerns, Homeless Services simply stopped disclosing to the public the arrests that occur in shelters.
That means in 2017, Homeless Services did not let the public know that there were 752 arrests at the 21 shelters for which The News has obtained agency police reports.
That includes the three biggest and most dangerous shelters: the Bedford-Atlantic Armory (89 arrests), the 30th Street men’s shelter in Kips Bay (119 arrests) and the Charles Gay men’s shelter on Wards Island (124 arrests).
The Homeless Services Department police reports raise serious questions about what the city is reporting to the public.
The city reports, for instance, claim there was only one case of drug possession last year in the entire shelter system and that was by a staff member. But internal documents show there were 284 drug arrests in the 21 shelters for which The News has obtained records.
The city does count fights that result in visible injury or involve a weapon — there were 488 last year. But there is no way to know how many of those fights resulted in arrests because that is not disclosed.
The city does disclose incidents of firearms possession — but not other weapons commonly found in shelters such as shivs, steak knives and locks in socks.
As a result, the city claims only seven cases of firearms possession last year, while internal records show 43 calls to Homeless Services Department police regarding weapons, with 22 arrests on weapons possession charges.
“They’re undercounting the number of arrests and incidents in DHS shelters,” said Greg Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, which represents the cops. “The numbers are even higher.”
By law the state requires shelter systems to report arrests for drug possession or sales, assaults, sexual assaults, child abuse, domestic violence, weapons possession or “any criminal activity in or around the facility by shelter residents that threatens the safety of the community.”
Homeless Services Department officials told The News on Tuesday that the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance last year had agreed to allow the agency to stop disclosing arrests in their critical incident reporting to the public.
State office spokesman Tim Ruffinen said the agency “issued statewide administrative guidance in December 2016 which clearly outlined the categories for reporting serious incidents that could impact the safety and well-being of shelter residents and staff. We worked collaboratively with DHS on the process of reporting potentially serious incidents to us.
“Since April 2017, we have been receiving notifications and serious incident reports from DHS. The categories of incidents DHS is required to notify us on remains consistent with the December 2016 directive.”
The News asked the city Monday to explain how hiding from the public hundreds of arrests at shelters presents an accurate portrayal of what’s happening in them.
A rep for Mayor de Blasio said in a statement that the NYPD tracks arrests at shelters, although those arrest numbers are not made publicly available.
“Our critical incidents reports (to the state) indicate whether a verified arrest has taken place in response to an incident. NYPD data reports arrests for crimes committed, whereas critical incidents data in shelters reflects social services reporting to provide better services,” the statement said. “City shelters are safer and reporting is better thanks to NYPD overseeing shelter security for the first time.”
Homeless Services Department officials said they no longer provide shelter-specific arrest data to the public because it would expose “the individuals residing at specific …locations to a heightened level of scrutiny and stigma.”
The officials said that in analyzing shelter safety, they examine “the incident itself, with severity based on any injury, rather than the resulting action like arrest which does not itself pose any risk to other clients in the facility.”
They also called the data obtained by The News, compiled by Homeless Services Department police, “inaccurate,” stating that the NYPD management team that is now advising agency police has the accurate count.
But a chart Homeless Services provided showing both agency and NYPD arrest counts at nine shelters actually appeared to undermine their claim.
At five shelters, Homeless Services Department police actually underreported the number of arrests. All told NYPD counted 612 arrests at the nine shelters, more than the 571 tallied by Homeless Services Department police — none of which were disclosed to the public.
Under its much reduced list of “critical incident” categories, Homeless Services claims there were 1,585 incidents in shelters citywide in 2017 — everything from arson to drug overdoses.
But the Homeless Services Department police records obtained by the News show 10 times that number of police service requests related to criminal activity and other incidents at just 21 shelters — 15,003.
Veteran agency cops — who are responsible for enforcing rules at shelters but do not carry guns — say the level of violence at some shelters is at an all-time high.
“It’s gotten worse,” said one cop who’s assigned to the armory shelter. “We’re dealing with more gang-affiliated people. There’s a lot of drugs inside the shelter. We’re confiscating a lot more weapons. They’re losing respect for us. That’s what we’re dealing with.”
Last year, Homeless Services Department police were very busy at the armory, particularly for drug-related activity. They routinely confiscated heroin, crack and pot from lockers, backpacks and clients’ pockets.
Officers assigned to the armory are routinely threatened, says the agency cop.
“Every time we have to do a police action,” says the cop, “issue summonses, arrest somebody — we get threatened. ‘I’m going to kill you. I’m going to follow you home. I’m going to follow you to the train station.’ You walk out that door we don’t know what’s waiting for us.”
Derek Jackson, director of the law enforcement division for Local 237, called the armory “a notoriously dangerous location.”
Jackson questioned some of the tactics of the NYPD, which two years ago was assigned to advise Homeless Services Department police on security issues. As Jackson sees it, the NYPD now tells agency cops what to do.
Two months ago, a 21-year-old man was fatally stabbed in front of the armory.
After that, the NYPD ordered two Homeless Services Department cops to stand on the sidewalk outside day and night.
Jackson noted that agency cops are armed only with Mace and are vulnerable to attack.
“Our concern is it’s a false sense of security for the community,” he said. “Those homeless men know where those officers stand. They know they’re defenseless. They know they can’t do anything.”
Read more from New York Daily News…