CIVIC CENTER — The NYPD will increase the amount of officers overseeing security at city homeless shelters after a string of deaths in 2016, including the fatal stabbing of a mother and her two young children in Staten Island.
The city will increase the police management team from three to 22 to help train and direct Department of Homeless Services peace officers in areas like keeping illicit substances out of shelters and using non-lethal force on violent clients, officials said Friday.
“Today we’ve reached a point where on an ongoing basis there will be an NYPD management team managing security and safety within the shelters, although the peace officers themselves will remain employees of the Department of Homeless Services," DHS Commissioner Steven Banks said during a press conference at One Police Plaza.
Police started to oversee shelter security in March after Rebecca Cutler and her two young children were fatally stabbed inside a Staten Island Ramada Inn where they were being housed by the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also vowed to start phasing out the use of hotel shelters after the murder.
Homelessness has remained a vexing issue for the mayor, with the population reaching near 60,000 people last year.
The city also came under fire after two young girls were burned to death by radiator steam after being sheltered in an apartment building owned by a known slumlord.
There are more than 600 peace officers throughout the shelter system.
NYPD managers will also help DHS supervisors determine where to allocate those officers and keep track fo crime statistics within shelters to confront growing issues, officials said.
Police said they have already seen an increase in arrests and decrease in illegal items like drugs and weapons in the shelters.
“It certainly has an impact on the system,” said Deputy Chief Edward Thompson, who led the oversight team.
"The better environment the clients are in, the less [likelihood] there [is] for violence or physical incidents within the system because the clients are not engaging in any substance abuse.”