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Police Called to Women's Shelter More Than 1,800 Times Since 2003

By Janet Upadhye | September 19, 2014 7:46am
 There are constant fights and violence at Tillary Street Women’s Shelter, residents say.
There are constant fights and violence at Tillary Street Women’s Shelter, residents say.
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DNAinfo/Janet Upadhye

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Police have responded to more than 1,800 calls for help at Tillary Street Women's Shelter since it opened in 2003 — nearly one every other day, officials said.

And despite Department of Homeless Services' recent efforts to upgrade security measures, violence continues to plague the city-funded shelter, which serves women with a range of mental illnesses.

Weapons used in fights over the last year-and-a-half included a combination lock, garbage cans, cellphones, a 7UP bottle, crutches, cups and a chunk of a wooden police barrier, according to reports.

It was not clear what all of the 911 calls were for, but residents said there were a number for fights and robberies as well as medical emergencies.

And, in a twist, even though the shelter at 200 Tillary St. sits adjacent to the 84th Precinct stationhouse, it is under the jurisdiction of the 88th Precinct, which has a stationhouse nearly 2 miles away.

In recent days there have been two violent incidents in the shelter, officials said.

On Sept. 2, Latisha Moore, 25, stabbed another resident with the metal end of a hair pick, leaving her hospitalized with cuts to her face, ear and left arm, prosecutors said.

Moore pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office.

Three days later, Regina Miles, 42, was arrested and charged with pummeling a woman with a "wet floor" sign, according to police. The injuries were unclear in that case.

She pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, according to the Brooklyn DA's office.

Residents are allowed back to the shelter after being arrested, even if the arrest took place in the shelter, according to DHS. It was unclear if there are any internal disciplinary measures taken at the residence.

Both Moore and Miles were issued orders of protection that prohibit them from returning to the shelter until their victims move out.

DHS officials could not immediately provide details about the number of serious incidents, such as stabbings, at the shelter over the past year. The agency does not track minor fights.


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Capt. Peter Fiorillo, commanding officer of the 88th Precinct, believes that part of the problem is the level of security at the shelter.

"I don't know what's going on with their security but we use a lot of resources on that location," he said.

In March, the shelter had one metal detector and 15 guards who do not have handcuffs. Security measures have not been upgraded since then, DHS spokesman Chris Miller said.

Women sleep nine to a room with doors that do not lock for fire safety reasons and are not separated by the severity of mental illness.

Rooms are inspected daily and the building has security cameras.

Officials said in March that police calls to homeless shelters were common and that Tillary did not stand out as being particularly violent among the 70 shelters DHS oversees.

But the agency increased its focus on the 200-bed shelter after DNAinfo New York reported the string of nine violent incidents, according to DHS.

Since March, the agency has "enhanced" its relationship with the NYPD, including having regular conversations with local police on how to interact with shelter residents and staff.

It also increased conflict-resolution trainings with shelter staff to once a week, a spokesman for DHS said.

But residents say their home is still rife with violence.

Kiara Robertson, 25, has lived at the shelter for three months and said that fights occur regularly among residents.

Police are called to the shelter almost daily for everything from seizures and other medical issues to fights and robberies, she said.

"The scariest thing that has happened since I've been here was last month when someone was stabbed with a box cutter in the cafeteria," Robertson said. "But I don't let it get to me — I'm just here until I get permanent housing."

The results of that incident were not clear.

According to Robertson, the security measures that are in place aren't helping her feel any safer.

"What good is a metal detector if I might get beat by a wet floor sign?" she asked.