New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton admits that street panhandlers and homelessness have “exploded” under Mayor Bill de Blasio, and it was a “mistake” to not acknowledge the problem.
“A mistake the administration made early on was not, if you will, validating what we were all seeing,” Bratton admitted in a Thursday appearance. “The problem was increasing.”
The city’s top cop made his comments as he sat on a panel on quality-of-life issues hosted by the Manhattan Institute.
Bratton even admitted that he was partially at fault, saying that City Hall was “not admitting what everybody was seeing and feeling–including myself.”
The police commissioner pointed out that the problem “hasn’t crept up on us,” but was obvious the entire time.
The number of homeless “has exploded in the last two years,” Bratton said, adding that he is “frustrated” by the fact that his officers are not allowed by city law to roust homeless people off the streets.
Bratton complained that the laws in the city have gotten so complex that officers are sometimes unsure of what they can and can’t do to clean up the streets. “That’s the dilemma that we’re finding,” the commissioner said. “We no longer, in many instances, have the law to work with. And we cannot encourage our officers to break the law to enforce it.”
By at least some reports, the rise in homelessness in New York has bucked the downward trend in many of the nation’s other largest cities.
As The New York Times reported this month, “The federal government’s annual homelessness count showed an increase in New Yorkers living on the streets or in shelters, even as the number of homeless people nationwide dipped slightly compared with the previous year.”
According to data provided by the federal government, New York is home to 14 percent of the number of homeless people in the U.S.
As to de Blasio, his office insists that they are addressing the issue and pointed to a new $2.6 billion plan to build 15,000 units of affordable housing.
“The Mayor increased other homeless programs by $1 billion over four years,” administration spokeswoman Karen Hinton said. He “ordered homeless encampments cleared and dispatched street-outreach teams to provide housing and services to street homeless.”
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