Police Raids On Homeless Shelters Are Counterproductive, Legal Aid Says
SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2014

Police raids on homeless shelters to arrest people with warrants for minor quality-of-life offenses are counterproductive, according to The Legal Aid Society. It would make a lot more sense for city staff to help people identify if they have warrants and clear them rather than surprising people in the middle of the night and shackling them and bringing them into court," Joshua Goldfein, a Staff Attorney in the Society's Homeless Rights Project told New York l.

The Legal Aid Society said it found that in past shelter raids, most people were wanted for minor quality-of-life offenses and not major crimes. Goldfein told Capital New York that the warrant sweeps run against the City’s stated mission. In a statement to Capital, Goldfein said, “It is counterproductive for the NYPD to do warrant sweeps in shelters when DHS is working so hard to encourage people to come in to safety and get off the street. A large majority of warrants are based on failure to return to court on tickets for very low-level quality of life violations, most of which are dismissed on the spot or 6 months later when the person returns for their court date.”




NY 1
Some Blame UWS Shelter Residents for Crime Spike; Others Wonder if They're Unfairly Targeted
By: Dean Meminger
05/29/2014

All was relatively quiet on West 95th Street as NY1 stopped by the Freedom House, where two buildings house about 400 homeless people, but the group Neighborhood in the Nineties say some shelter residents are bringing more crime and drug dealing to the area. "I was approached by a shelter resident two nights ago at the corner of 94th and West End, and he started talking to me about what he was selling," said Aaron Biller, president of Neighborhood in the Nineties.

Police recently raided the shelter looking for 35 people with outstanding arrest warrants. The New York City Police Department said it was in response to an 83 percent increase in burglaries in the area this year. Officers said several of those wanted had a history of burglary arrests.

"Undercovers," said one woman who lives in the shelter. "It was blue uniforms. It was DHS police. They come in with undercover cops."

The NYPD and Homeless Services police took 22 people into custody, but homeless advocates say these sorts of tactics discourage people from seeking help.

"It would make a lot more sense for city staff to help people identify if they have warrants and clear them rather than surprising people in the middle of the night and shackling them and bringing them into court," said Joshua Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society.

The Legal Aid Society said it found that in past shelter raids, most people were wanted for minor quality-of-life offenses and not major crimes.

Don Arrup is among some of the longtime tenants at the buildings who rent rooms. He doesn't agree with raids for low-level offenses, but said hardcore criminals shouldn't be here. He says he was threatened by a shelter resident.

"A gentleman who was half my age, twice my size, told me he was going to throw me out the window," Arrup said. "He said it right in front of the guards."

"We should not be introducing criminal element into the community," Biller said. "Again, it's not just us. It's people in the shelter that are having their property stolen, people who may be getting physically assaulted."

Homeless Services said it will continue to work with the NYPD, which could include more early morning sweeps.




Capital New York
No Justification for Searches
By Azi Paybarah
May 28, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is coming under fire from a civil liberties group after it was reported city police were combing a homeless shelter on the Upper West Side, searching for people with outstanding warrants.

“There’s no justification for this,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Being homeless is not grounds for suspicion that someone has a bench warrant. This incident goes against what this administration stands for, and is going to drive people out of homeless shelters.”

Twenty-two people with outstanding warrants were arrested during a pre-dawn raid last Friday at the Freedom House shelter on West 95th Street, according to DNAinfo, which first reported the police activity.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who represented the Upper West Side for three terms in the City Council, told Capital, “Enforcement is one option, but caseworkers at City-funded shelters can also help resolve outstanding warrants so the people affected can take steps toward eventually finding jobs and permanent housing. They should not be caught in a cul-de-sac of warrants and arrests.”

A spokesperson for de Blasio did not have an immediate comment.

Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney with The Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Project, said the warrant sweep runs against the city’s stated mission. In a statement to Capital, Goldfein said, “It is counterproductive for the NYPD to do warrant sweeps in shelters when DHS is working so hard to encourage people to come in to safety and get off the street. A large majority of warrants are based on failure to return to court on tickets for very low-level quality of life violations, most of which are dismissed on the spot or 6 months later when the person returns for their court date.”