NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In an effort to tackle homelessness one street at a time, police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Tuesday that the problem is most amplified in Harlem on 125th Street, and the NYPD will focus resources there.
But as CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, some say it is not enough.
Busy 125th Street is a homeless hot spot. Even after police have cleared it several times, vagrants litter the blocks around the thoroughfare.
The homeless arrive on 125 every day after stepping off a bus from the overnight homeless shelters on Wards Island. They spend their days roaming the streets.
“A lot of it is generated by the fact that we have two major methadone clinics in that neighborhood,” Bratton said.
But now, Bratton plans to dedicate three dozen police officers to one street.
“Today, I am announcing also the creation of a new 38-officer unit that will be stationed at 125th Street up in Harlem, to deal with the extraordinary conditions up in that community,” Bratton said.
The new officers will be trained in crisis intervention and dealing with emotionally disturbed people.
But homeless advocates said it is the wrong way to solve a growing problem.
“We certainly think we can’t police ourselves out of the homelessness crisis,” said Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless. “We need to implement solutions that really work.”
Routhier is working to get more funding from the state for supportive housing, which provides housing and social service to the homeless.
Bratton also slammed the City Council, and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s plans to lessen penalties for quality of life crimes.
“The City Council has attempted to loosen these laws even further — crazy!” Bratton said.
But Mark-Viverito pointed to a letter from Bratton back in May where he welcomed “a discussion of documented warnings instead of summonses.”
She went on to say now, “(T)he City Council looks forward to a deliberative and thoughtful dialogue as we work to keep our city safe while also striving to create a more equitable criminal justice system.”
“Whether that’s public urination, squeegee pests, aggressive begging — we will focus on that,” Bratton said in July.
He said in a one-on-one interview with CBS2’s Dave Carlin, 10,000 officers would get four days of “handle the homeless” training.
The training will involve “teaching them how to deal with the homeless; the mentally disturbed in the population, and how to de-escalate some of the issues that we face with them,” Bratton said.
Putting the City’s homeless problem to bed means finding better mental health solutions and better housing – both long-term, according to Bratton. But in the short-term, the police commissioner said in July that getting a handle on the harmful homeless was a top priority.