Police won’t immediately arrest homeless people found violating rules in the subway system as part of a Manhattan pilot program announced by the city on Thursday.
NYPD Transit officers will offer unsheltered homeless people connections to social services in lieu of a civil summons if they’re caught evading fares, lying outstretched or violating other transit rules.
“New Yorkers want homeless people in the subway to receive the right interventions that will help them get back on their feet,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “Subjecting these individuals to criminal justice involvement for low level, non-violent offenses is not the answer and does not help anyone.”
Cops will complete a review to determine that violators don’t have a legal address and don’t already reside in homeless shelters as part of the pilot program launching July 1.
Officers will then give them a chance to participate in the diversion program and, if they accept, homeless will be escorted to offices where nonprofit social service providers can connect them to resources and housing. They could be referred to detox programs, overnight Safe Haven beds, drop-in centers or shelter intake.
Those who choose to participate will have to give their ticket to the outreach team in order to clear the summons.
The Coalition for the Homeless slammed the new policy.
“The NYPD’s misguided new policy will only serve to further criminalize homeless New Yorkers through useless summonses. There is no criminal justice or policing solution to homelessness in New York City," said Giselle Routhier, coalition policy director. "People avoid services and shelters for a variety of legitimate reasons, the most important being the shortage of safe, welcoming shelter beds and permanent and supportive housing. Reducing the tragedy of people taking makeshift refuge in transit facilities and on the trains means giving them somewhere better to go – not using the police to chase them in circles.”
The program comes as the number of homeless in the subways has increased – along with the number of incidents they have been involved in.
There were 2,178 in the subways on a cold night this past January, when the city conducted its annual homelessness census. They accounted for 61% of all 3,588 unsheltered homeless, city data show.
In the first three months of this year, there were 371 incident reports involving homeless, with 84% causing delays.
Last year, the were 856 incidents involving homeless, up from 627 in 2017 and a massive 237% bump since a decade earlier, according to MTA statistics. Nearly 77% of those incidents caused delays last year.
The overall number of those incidents increased 54% since 2014, de Blasio’s first year in office, when there were 557.
The number of homeless in the subway system during the city’s annual count also increased since de Blasio took office, by about 20%.
The city saw a 23% increase in homeless in the subways this year, with 1,771 in the system in 2018. There were 1,812 in 2017, 1,573 in 2016, 1,976 in 2015 and 1,808 in 2014. There were just 845 homeless counted on the subways in 2005.