NYPD to take over security at New York City homeless shelters
By Christopher Tiberio
20 January 2017
Under the pretext of concerns about the dangers
to the New York City’s homeless, the city’s Department of Homeless Services
(DHS) announced earlier this month that the New York Police Department (NYPD)
is now overseeing security of the city’s temporary housing for the homeless.
The DHS has had a security force independent of
the NYPD command structure since 1993, when Mayor David Dinkins established the
department. Created ostensibly to combat rising homeless levels in the 1990s,
the DHS has provided bare-bones and insufficient services while affording the
city government with the appearance of caring for the homeless.
It is estimated that there are approximately
60,000 people, including 25,000 children, living in New York City with no
The NYPD presence comes on top of a security
review by the DHS and months of a media campaign led by the city’s two
tabloids, the Daily News and the New
York Post, the latter of which routinely refers to the unhoused
homeless people as “bums.” Both newspapers speak for the rich and the upper
middle class that would like to see the homeless locked up and out of sight.
Housing for the homeless, a combination of city-run
and city-regulated nonprofit shelters, has widely been considered dangerous,
unhealthy and overcrowded for years. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of people
each night who seek to pass bureaucratic hurdles as a last resort for shelter
for themselves and their families. The rise in crime at shelters is an
indication of the social crisis and demonstrates that the city cannot provide
jobs, mental health care, drug treatment programs or even nourishment for large
numbers of homeless who seek out the shelter system.
The police integration into the shelters is
already under way. According to the DHS, 22 NYPD officers will be assigned to
train the current 777 “peace officers” on “proper searching strategies and how
best to use Tasers and other nonlethal weapons provided to DHS officers,”
according to the New York Post.
This news comes after the announcement in 2016
that the NYPD and the notoriously brutal Rikers Island prison guards are to be
armed with Tasers. While these and other “non-lethal” devices are cited as
effective ways to prevent shootings and other types of potentially deadly
force, evidence has shown that police resort to these painful devices quickly
and without cause. Most experts agree that Tasers, which have been responsible
for hundreds of deaths, cannot justifiably be called “non-lethal.” Stun guns
were taken away from the NYPD after the cops used one to torture suspected drug
dealer Mark Davidson in a Queens precinct in 1985.
The NYPD is supervising another 1,400 private
security guards at shelters and hotels where the overflow of homeless are now
housed. The security company “has also implemented new Guard Force and Geo
fencing technology to monitor staffing deployment,” the DHS web site notes. Geo
fencing technology sets up a virtual perimeter based on satellite data. It is
unclear to what extent the people living in the shelter will be monitored.
The homeless will also be subject to increased
state surveillance. As the DHS notes, it has “revamped the surveillance system
and infrastructure at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter through the installation of
more than 300 surveillance cameras, all of which are now fully operational.”
While the social crisis itself has made shelters
dangerous places, the NYPD supervision will not seek to protect the homeless,
one of the most oppressed and vulnerable segments of the population, but rather
to terrorize and monitor them. With nearly 1,000 people killed by police in
2016 nationally—and nine in New York City—it is a farce to claim that the
city’s homeless will be safer under NYPD oversight.
It is precisely the ever-growing number of
homeless people in the city that has raised concerns in ruling circles of how
to manage them. This is the real reason the NYPD has stepped in to police the
shelters. It is in line with the NYPD’s notorious stop-and-frisk program that
unconstitutionally searched hundreds of working class youth in public areas for
years until the program was abated at the end of the tenure of Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, because it was itself becoming a liability for the ruling class.
When the DHS web site notes that the NYPD has
“instituted procedures for conducting searches in shelters,” one can be sure
that the democratic rights of the people in the shelters will be disregarded.
New York City has increasingly become a
playground for the super-rich and the wealthiest layers of the middle class.
The construction of luxury apartments that cost thousands of dollars a month to
rent and millions to purchase is proceeding at a heated pace.
After three years in the city mayor’s office,
during which the homeless population has increased by 20 percent, Bill de
Blasio, the representative of the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic
Party, has shown his unwillingness and inability to meet even the most minimal
needs of the working class. New York City, for most of its people, has simply