More Raids Planned for UWS Homeless Shelter, Police Say

By Emily Frost on May 27, 2014 5:56pm 

 There will be more raids at the shelter, police said. 
There will be more raids at the shelter, police said. 
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

UPPER WEST SIDE — Police plan to conduct more raids at a controversial homeless shelter after one last week resulted in the arrests of 22 people with oustanding warrants — but advocates said pre-screening residents would prevent criminals from coming in the first place. 

The NYPD and the Department of Homeless Services worked together on Friday's 4 a.m. sweep of the much-maligned Freedom House on West 95th Street, with police netting everyone from drug dealers to burglars, they said.

But while 22 people were arrested in the raid, there were outstanding arrest warrants for 35 people in all, said Capt. Marlon Larin, the new commanding officer at the 24th Precinct. 

"We do intend to follow up at not only this location, but others within the precinct as well," he said, without explaining why the other 15 individuals were not picked up.

The new commander, who replaced Inspector Nancy Barry in April, is taking a more proactive approach to complaints of illegal activity related to the 400-person shelter, residents said. 

The Department of Homeless Services has conducted warrant sweeps at Freedom House in the past, DHS press secretary Christopher Miller explained. He did not provide the dates of the sweeps nor the number of people arrested in the past. 

DHS does not do background checks for homeless people requiring emergency housing other than reviewing their prior housing, Miller said, adding that the agency's mandate is to shelter the homeless. DHS, working with police, then removes people with outstanding warrants after they are placed in housing.

"We work closely with the local NYPD precincts to conduct warrant searches on a regular basis," Miller explained.

The local group Neighborhood in the Nineties, which has been fighting the shelter since its opening almost two years ago, objected to the lack of initial review by DHS.

Placing people with long criminal histories in a residential neighborhood located next to a school and then dealing with the consequences later is irresponsible, said Aaron Biller, the group's president and a West 94th Street resident. 

"There is no screening... If you bring in habitual criminals, it’s not good for the other [shelter] residents," he said.

Not all of Freedom House's residents are problematic, Biller insisted, adding, "a lot of people are in that shelter because they fell through the net."

But, with the introduction of residents with a long history of recidivism, "the effect is immediately felt on the neighborhood," he said. 

The shelter has been operating without a contract since it opened. City officials reached an agreement requiring the shelter to reduce its population by half by Nov. 1.

In determining who leaves the site, "we will look closely at our list and see who can be moved to permanent housing or transferred to another shelter," Miller said. "We will look at many different variables, including work locations, nearby family, etc."

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