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City Shelter Where Man Was Murdered Has No Security Cameras, Residents Say

By Noah Hurowitz | April 18, 2016 6:23pm
 A man was murdered at the 30th Street Men's Shelter on April 15, 2015, according to police.
A man was murdered at the 30th Street Men's Shelter on April 15, 2015, according to police.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

KIPS BAY — A Manhattan homeless shelter where a man was slashed to death last week has never had a security camera system, officials said.

Following Friday's murder at the 30th Street Men's Shelter, where a 56-year-old resident was found dead on his bed with his throat slit, a spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services said that there hasn't been a security system at the 850-bed shelter — one of the city's largest — in its 30 years of operation.

“As part of the 90-day review, we are implementing upgrades of security in shelters, including the installation of cameras throughout shelters like Bellevue [the 30th Street Men's Shelter] that has never had such a camera system during the three decades it has been a shelter,” DHS spokeswoman Nicole Cueto said in an email.

READ MORE: Man With Throat Slashed at Homeless Shelter May Have Been Murdered, Police Say

READ MORE: Man Wanted in Connection to Homeless Shelter Slashing Arrested, Police Say

Residents of the shelter confirmed the lack of surveillance, and described the existing security measures as ineffective. 

"Young punks pick on old guys like me and they can because there are no cameras," said 67-year-old Israel Soto, a resident of the 30th Street shelter near Bellevue Hospital for the past eight months.

"Security [guards] don't do anything," he added.

Another resident, who declined to be named out of fear of retaliation, previously said security guards at the shelter remained tethered to their posts, rather than walking around. 

"Security ain't where they should be," he said. "They're at their post on their phones or standing by the stairs talking to each other."

Mayor Bill De Blasio launched a 90-day review of the homeless shelter system in December and agreed to tap the NYPD to retain DHS peace officers after acknowledging the growing number of homeless people in the city.

But in the months since de Blasio promised to tackle the issue, a number of high-profile, violent incidents have shaken the city's homeless shelters

The mayor has been under pressure from city and state politicians to reform the city's shelter system, which was the subject of damning reports by Comptroller Scott Stringer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Stringer on Monday blasted the lack of cameras at the 30th Street shelter in a statement to DNAinfo.

"It is outrageous that the Bellevue Men's Shelter does not have a single working security camera despite the frequent and ongoing reports of violence at this and other shelter sites," he said. "The City must do more to ensure the safety of its residents."

The biggest change that has come out of that review so far is a plan announced last week to merge the city’s Human Resources Administration and Department of Homeless Services

A bill is currently languishing at City Council that would require the city to prepare annual reports on violent incidents at shelters and take measures to address safety issues. A hearing for the bill was scheduled for April 13, but was deferred and there is no record of a rescheduled date.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, the prime sponsor for the bill, did not respond to request for further information.

DHS recently added six peace officers to the roster at the 30th Street shelter, bringing the total number of security staff across all shifts to 30 peace officers and 120 contracted security guards, according to the agency. 

There were six officers and 18 guards on duty on the Friday morning that the murder victim was discovered, a DHS spokesman said.

"The reason why we asked the NYPD to conduct an assessment and develop an action plan to upgrade the security systems that have existed for many years is to determine what further security upgrades are needed in addition to the 63 percent increase in our spending on security staffing," Cueto said. 

"We are working with the NYPD on that review and we are prepared to implement the action plan that is developed, including additional cameras in shelters.”