NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A lively debate has erupted among New Yorkers – and the homeless themselves – about police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s advice to just say no to those begging on the street.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Bratton said the easiest way to get the homeless off the street is not to give them money.
“My best advice to the citizens of New York City – if this is so upsetting to you, don’t give,” Bratton told Kramer on Monday. “One of the quickest ways to get rid of them is not to give to them, and so, New Yorkers who are complaining so much about it, well, one of the things they can do is stop contributing to it.”
There was some pushback to the remarks, with some saying compassion is owed to the homeless.
In response to Bratton’s comments, one woman said Tuesday, “We shouldn’t pay his salary.”
“I think you have to have some compassion for people who are suffering,” added Albert Schaeffer of the Upper East Side. “There’s people that I give regularly, and I will continue to do so.”
But there were also those who thought the commissioner was spot-on.
Chris Belardi of the Upper East Side added, “You need to be careful of the homeless person on the street, because you don’t know where the money’s going.”
Added Laura Steinberg of the Upper East Side: “Get a job. I worked for 25 years, and I wasn’t on the street begging when I had no job.”
Bratton’s remarks came after Kramer showed a photo to him, and to Mayor Bill de Blasio, showing Shaunyce Darling setting up camp on the Upper West Side. She was living on the streets with her three cats and pit bull puppy.
Darling told CBS2’s Tony Aiello that refusing to give to the homeless would likely backfire. She said they would move on to “aggressive panhandling,” or “stealing and robbing from people.”
But Scott Gallie — his pit bull, “Steely,” were spotted seeking shelter under a bridge overhang as New Yorkers handed him donations.
Gallie, a Brooklynite down on his luck, has been unable to find a shelter or a landlord willing to take him and his pet. He was well aware of Bratton’s suggestion that people should stifle their generosity, but he also said people buy pets to improve their take while panhandling.
“These kids – they went out, they saved up $500, and they went to a pet store, and they bought a puppy,” Gallie said. “It’s things like that that are causing people to become angrier and angrier; causing questions like that to be asked of the police commissioner.”
Meanwhile, criminal justice expert Manny Gomez – a former NYPD officer – said Bratton’s advice may backfire. Gomez noted that officers often use the homeless as informants, since they are on the street all the time and see drug deals and robberies.
“As a strategy, it may alienate the homeless that are many times, in many corners of the communities, the police eyes and ears,” Gomez said.
Mayor de Blasio was sticking up for Bratton on Tuesday.
“We don’t want someone out begging,” the mayor said. “We want them to get the help they need and ultimately get off the street.”
Although he agrees with Bratton, the mayor admitted that he himself has given a handout to people on the street. Now, he says the best thing for people to do if they see someone in need is to call 311.
“The fact is, that’s not a solution, and we’re all human beings and we feel compassionate for our fellow human beings, but I think Commissioner Bratton’s hit the point on the head,” de Blasio said in an interview with WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb. “The solution is these bigger efforts to actually help people get off the streets and get on the right track.”