The city’s police department has launched a new surveillance system to keep an eye on homeless New Yorkers at more than 10 subway stations, THE CITY reported on Thursday. NYPD officers will watch feeds from more than 100 live cameras that show views from stations and platforms in order to respond to “quality-of-life and public safety concerns,” the city announced in August. The monitoring program comes as part of a city and state effort to address homelessness in the subways.
“The intent was able to leverage our technology to be able to view many stations at one time with a couple of officers who are skilled and seasoned and would know what we’re looking at,” NYPD Chief of Transit Edward Delatorre, told THE CITY. “Probably the people who are going to benefit the most are people who are outstretched in our stations and undomiciled.”
The program will run out of a new “Joint Crisis Coordination Center” in Brooklyn. Workers from the Department of Homeless Services will eventually monitor the surveillance alongside the officers. Officials with the NYPD did not release the stations they are monitoring, but told THE CITY they were picked based “on a history of ‘quality of life’ issues.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to create an “interagency command center” to help homeless outreach teams in August. In addition to the live CCTV feed at the center, the city said it would expand its Subway Diversion Program, which aims to help homeless individuals avoid court by diverting them to supportive programs, to all five boroughs. Through the program, NYPD officers refer individuals to outreach services instead of issuing them a civil summons.
Homeless advocates and government watchdogs have expressed concern over the NYPD’s involvement with homeless outreach. In a statement, Giselle Routhier, the policy director at Coalition for the Homeless, said the program will lead to more distrust by homeless New Yorkers of law enforcement.
“The NYPD’s chilling use of Big Brother-like tactics to surveil homeless New Yorkers and target them for arrest is deeply disturbing, and redolent of the failed Giuliani-era tactics of criminalizing homelessness,” Routhier said. “These practices are an affront to the dignity of all New Yorkers and must stop immediately.”
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the MTA to address homelessness in subways, citing a large increase of about 23 percent in homeless people in the subway this year from 2018. In a letter to the MTA board, the governor said the increased number of homeless people is “directly impacting service to riders.”
A few weeks later the MTA announced it would create a task force that would come up with a plan within 30 days to address the rising homeless population. As THE CITY reports, no plan has been made available yet. And at the governor’s request, the MTA also hired 500 new transit police officers to man the stations, doubling the current force.
According to a report from the Citizens Budget Commission, the cost of hiring 500 officers, along with 81 supervisors, will exceed $260 million in the 2020-2023 financial plan, contributing to a $1 billion budget gap expected over the next four years.
[Via THE CITY]
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