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NYPD mulls new tactic to curb rampant NYC homelessness

More city homeless people would be threatened with costly summonses — and even jail — under a new NYPD proposal, The Post has learned.

An NYPD memo detailing the proposed push toward more summonses was pitched in a meeting with police brass Friday — fewer than two months after Mayor Eric Adams unveiled what he called his “compassionate new vision’’ for the city’s homeless crisis.

The missive from Chief of Patrol John Chell’s office suggests greater widespread use of ticketing for the homeless who hoard more than they can carry off in one trip and/or erect structures, according to sources and a copy of the memo obtained by The Post.

The summonses involve misdemeanors and require the payment of a fine of between $50 and $250.

If the fine isn’t paid, a bench warrant would be issued for the violator, who would presumably then be hauled into court and potentially jailed if he or she couldn’t cough up the money.

Despite no formal directive having come down since the meeting, beat cops began receiving unofficial orders from commanders this week to issue more tickets to people camping out on the streets, police sources said.

“We don’t have the money for that, so what the f–k are we gonna do with it?” scoffed 59-year-old Darryl Young, who told The Post he’s been homeless for years.

“They can shove their tickets. They can shove them someplace where it’s not nice.”

NYPD officers approach a homeless man asleep in an L train subway car.
New York City has seen a growing homeless crisis.
Edna Leshowitz/

Joile Ortiz Rodriguez, a 43-year-old man who suffers from colon cancer and lupus, raged about the “stupid” move.

“You’re gonna give a ticket to a homeless person who has no resources to get money except asking for it or stealing it?” said Rodriguez.

“I used to steal, now I collect cans. I make like 40 bucks a day on cans. You’re gonna ticket me? Put me in jail. I can’t pay $250.”

“They don’t have any heart,” he said, adding, “remember, not everything lasts forever…. maybe you’ll be in my position someday.”

Some experts and political observers agreed with the vagrants’ take on the proposal, which would be another step in a return to “broken windows” policing under Adams. 

“It sounds like the most asinine thing I’ve heard of,’’ a source with former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said of the idea. “It would [be] counter to the goal to not using the city’s jails as a de facto homeless shelter.’’

Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Dave Giffen added, “It’s preposterous.

“It sounds like a very Giuliani-esque approach to the problem. … And that’s very concerning to those of us who are trying to protect the rights of those without homes.’’

A homeless man  begging outside of the New Kamboat bakery at 111 Bowery by NYPD
Police officers have received orders to issue more tickets to people camping out on the streets.
William Farrington

The NYPD memo cites violations involving “unattended movable property” and “erecting a structure on a public space’’ when mentioning more potential summonses for vagrants.

It appears to be only the latest desperate attempt by the city to try to address its troubling homeless crisis.

In February, Adams began sending specially formed teams into the subways to try to crack down on crime and help get the homeless into shelters and medical care, after a string of violent incidents on the rails.

In a city press release at the time, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the move reflective of the NYPD’s commitment to preserving “dignity and delivering positive outcomes” for the homeless.

In late November, Adams then ordered city cops to take mentally ill homeless into custody for psychiatric evaluation, prompting widespread criticism from advocates and at least one lawsuit.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams
Some “broken windows” policies were reinstated by Mayor Adams in March.
Robert Mecea

“So you’re never going to find a policy that every New Yorker is going to agree with. But everyone agrees that this is inhumane for people who live in this condition,” Adams said at the time.

If the NYPD memo proposal becomes official, it won’t be the first time a homeless person has been slapped with a summons.

According to data provided by the department on Wednesday, 14 such summonses were issued by cops during some 4,364 visits to “homeless locations” made between March 18, 2022 and Jan. 18.

In 2018, 20 cops gathered to boot a 61-year-old, one-legged homeless man from the Brooklyn plaza where he’d been camped out for weeks and issued him with a summons for storing items on the sidewalk.

But sources said the new memo indicates that summonses would be a more widespread tactic used by the department.

It’s unclear how the proposal was received at the internal NYPD meeting.

But a Manhattan homeless man — who was about to turn in for the night on West 51st Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue surrounded by a shopping cart and stuffed garbage bags — had plenty to say.

“That’s totally draconian. Sounds like Eric Adams, yo,” the man said of the proposal.

He added that even if he gets fined, it won’t keep him from coming back.

Another homeless man, Edward Kavalaity, 58, said in the Bowery, “If they gave me a ticket, I’d go to court and fight it.’’

homeless people
The fines being dispersed to the homeless can span between $50 and $250.
Gabriella Bass

Either way, “I’m not giving up my Baby Yoda backpack.’’

Added David, 59, a homeless out-of-work truck driver who was sitting in Sara D Roosevelt Park downtown on the Bowery, “This is 2023 now — really, are we still doing stupid things like ticketing the homeless?”

Other criticism was swift, too.

“It’s one thing to clear an encampment, but when you apply a summons, you are giving [the homeless] a touch to the justice system — these people don’t even have IDs in a lot of scenarios,’’ the de Blasio source said.

“Creating a system to criminalize homelessness in this scenario … will just mean homeless people will be going to jail. It will only make things worse,” the source said. “I don’t see the end game here.”

Giffen compared the move to something akin to occurring under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who criminalized sleeping on the street.

He noted that these people don’t have a home, much less money for a fine.

“If we want fewer encampments, if we want fewer structures around the city, we want fewer people sleeping in the subway system and in doorways, give them some place better to go. And we’re not doing that right now.’’

Young told The Post the streets are often seen as the safest places to live in NYC

“Some of us can’t go to shelters because some of us were abused in shelters.”

“You’ve got a bunch of rapers and robbers and a bunch of other people you can use a cell for — not for homeless guys,” he added.

The NYPD said in a statement to The Post, “When addressing homeless encampments, the NYPD’s focus is to ensure the safety of all involved.

nypd, homeless people
The proposal pushes more ticketing on the homeless.
Paul Martinka

“We also want to ensure that uniform members are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to addressing homeless individuals and that includes providing additional services and engaging other city agencies, vouchering property, and when necessary issuing appropriate summonses.

“The NYPD regularly reviews our best practices and confers with our Legal Bureau to ensure we are properly applying the law.”

City Hall did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Haley Brown, Georgett Roberts, Kate Sheehy and Bernadette Hogan

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