Image Credit: NYCHA.
DOI faulted the failure of NYCHA and the NYPD to enforce lease conditions against criminals and criminal activities at NYCHA projects. In 1996, the NYPD and New York City Housing Authority entered into a Memorandum of Understanding designed to prevent crime and create a safer environment for residents of NYCHA’s public housing developments. NYPD agreed to provide NYCHA with all arrest and complaint reports concerning serious criminal activity committed by NYCHA residents within NYCHA developments. In exchange for this information, NYCHA agreed to ensure that criminal offenders who posed a threat to safety would be removed from public housing. The agreement intended to monitor criminal activity to improve the safety and quality of life for NYCHA residents.
In December 2015, the Department of Investigation issued a report titled Crime and Criminal Offenders in Public Housing. DOI reported that NYCHA failed to comply with the MOU of 1996 by failing to ensure that criminal offenders who posed a threat to public safety were removed from public housing. DOI recommended that NYCHA improve the sharing and use of information and concluded that the NYCHA’s failures “contributed to disproportionately high violent rates at NYCHA, including a shooting incident rate that is four times higher than in the City as a whole.” At the time, roughly 15 percent of homicides, 11 percent of rapes, and 10 percent of felony assaults occurred on NYCHA premises, while only 5 percent of New York City residents live in public housing. Both NYCHA and the NYPD agreed to implement DOI’s recommendations for reform.
In March 2017, DOI issued a follow up report called Dangerous Criminal Offenders in Public Housing. The report found that while the NYPD had taken steps to significantly improve its information sharing with NYCHA, the NYPD was not referring off-site arrests of NYCHA residents. The report also found that NYCHA had failed to enforce DOI’s earlier recommendations and policies. At times, NYCHA “had even overlooked repeated violations.” DOI concluded that NYCHA’s inaction threatened the safety of public housing residents by failing to bring meaningful enforcement actions against residents who were repeated violators. NYCHA field investigators were also found by DOI not to be adequately equipped in terms of safety and equipment during their investigations.
The report stated that after the 2015 report, NYPD had been reporting most on-site arrests of NYCHA residents, and that NYPD had given NYCHA the opportunity to take swift action against these dangerous residents. NYCHA, however, was still failing to seek evictions of tenants who knowingly sheltered dangerous criminal offenders.
NYCHA accepted some of DOI’s recommendations, but not others. NYCHA did not agree to hire additional attorneys and investigators to expedite the prosecution of the dangerous offenders due to budget constraints. NYCHA also rejected DOI’s recommendation that NYCHA prosecute cases of dangerous criminal offenders at the early hearing stages and DOI’s recommendation that NYCHA transfer investigations to law enforcement officers due to safety concerns.
DOI Finds Continued Failures to Remove Dangerous Criminal Offenders from Public Housing, Report No. 10-2017, Department of Investigation (Mar. 28, 2017).
By: Aaron Ladds (Aaron is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2019)