Real-time subway surveillance part of plan to improve homeless outreach in subways

The city is planning to create an interagency command center with a real-time CCTV feed of the subway system as part of a new multipronged plan to improve the effectiveness of its homeless outreach teams.

Members of the Health Department, Health and Hospitals, HOME-STAT homeless outreach and NYPD Transit Bureau will work together at the Joint Crisis Command Center to create unique outreach plans for the most difficult, high-needs cases of “entrenched” homelessness, the de Blasio administration announced on Thursday. Establishing a live systemwide CCTV feed at the command center will allow the agencies to monitor the subway network in real-time and deploy outreach teams faster, according to the mayor’s office.

“All New Yorkers should feel safe and comfortable on public transit,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “With this collaborative partnership, we’re striking the right balance, and meeting New Yorkers in need where they are to ensure they’re connected with services to help them back on their feet.”

The city also plans to expand its new Subway Diversion Program to all five boroughs. The initiative, which was tested in Manhattan this summer, aims to bring homeless people out of the subway while avoiding the court system.

NYPD officers who encounter a homeless person violating the law or MTA rules, such as fare evasion or lying outstretched, are able to offer referrals for supportive programs instead of issuing civil summonses. Those who opt into the program go through an assessment with a HOME-STAT outreach team and receive a shelter referral as well as information on other city services. In doing so, the person would have their summonses cleared and avoid a court appearance.

Joint canvassing and outreach efforts by the NYPD and HOME-STAT will also be stepped up at end-of-the-line stations.

“This collaborative, interagency approach leverages the NYPD’s intelligence and expertise to help those in need of assistance, not punishment,” NYPD Chief of Transit Edward Delatorre said. “Our committed officers, who know the subway system and the people in it, truly help to define the NYPD’s Neighborhood Policing philosophy.”

Being homeless is not a crime, and those who are not breaking the law or MTA rules cannot simply be removed from a train or a subway station. However, the city has been grappling with a homeless crisis with deep ties to the subway system.

The Department of Homeless Services estimates there are about 3,588 New Yorkers living on the streets. Of those, about 61 percent said in a January survey that they sleep in the subway system.

Since HOME-STAT began in April 2016, the city has helped more than 2,200 homeless individuals, including about 600 people living in the subway system, obtain transitional or permanent housing.

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