Daily News: NYPD using data-driven tactics to tackle homeless crisis

Daily News

NYPD using data-driven tactics to tackle homeless crisis

Thomas Tracy , Erin Durkin , Jennifer Fermino | September 14, 2015

Operation “Bum-Stat” is in full effect.

The NYPD is mining some of the data-driven tactics it used to bring down crime in the late 1990s and applying them to the homeless crisis, multiple sources tell the Daily News.

All precinct commanders are now required to inform higher-ups about homeless problems on their watch, including encampments, aggressive panhandling and crimes in homeless shelters, NYPD sources said. They are also expected to tabulate 311 calls about homelessness in their command.

The information is then sent to 1 Police Plaza, the NYPD’s lower Manhattan headquarters, to be analyzed.

It mirrors the type of information gathering used in the NYPD’s 20 year-old CompStat program, which tracks and maps crime trends. That system is widely credited with helping bring down crime to its current historic lows.

In another sign of how seriously the NYPD is taking the crisis, nearly all of the department’s weekly CompStat meetings — typically devoted to crime trends — focused on the homeless problem two weeks ago, said one attendee.

“Shootings, everything else got ignored,” said the source. “All he (NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton) did was talk about homelessness.”

At one point, Bratton and other NYPD brass called up the heads of Midtown South and the 13th Precinct — which covers Gramercy Park and parts of Chelsea — and grilled them on what they were doing on homelessness, the source said.

“I’ve never seen that before,” said a source.

Although the cops haven’t added homelessness to CompStat — which currently just tracks arrests and summonses — multiple sources think the department is leaning that way.

“We were told that this (homeless issue) was ripe for CompStat,” a high-ranking NYPD source said.

One detective said that cops have taken to calling it “Bum-Stat.”

A NYPD spokesman confirmed that cops have been asked to track homelessness, saying the data is sent to other city agencies trying to battle the problem.

But he said there are no plans at the moment to track it on CompStat, along with murders and shootings.

The city’s homeless shelter population reached a record high of nearly 60,000 a night this winter, but has since come down to 57,047, according to the latest available numbers from the city.

It was about 53,600 when Mayor de Blasio took office, a number that had risen steadily since a rent subsidy program called Advantage was scrapped in 2011.

The city only does a count of homeless people living on the streets, instead of in shelters, in the winter, and this year counted 3,182 people, a 5% drop from 3,357 the year before.

But numbers in the summer are higher, and de Blasio recently acknowledged the city has “both a perception and a reality problem” with rising homelessness.

The number of 311 complaints related to homeless people has jumped 59% since de Blasio took office, reaching 20,242 this year as of last month.

De Blasio has been under tremendous pressure to curb the homelessness problem, and recently vowed to wipe out dozens of encampments that people on the streets have created for shelter.

Jennifer Flynn, executive director of VOCAL-NY, said a hyper-focus by cops won’t work.

“The solution to homelessness is actually incredibly simple. It’s actually just housing,” she said, urging de Blasio to set aside more of the units in his affordable housing plan for homeless and extremely low-income people.

“All of this other stuff is just a distraction,” she said. “Unless the police get together and build some housing, I see no role for them in solving homelessness.”

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