Police Commissioner Bratton says homeless problem has reached 'tipping point'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- For weeks, New Yorkers have complained about a growing homeless problem.

The mayor finally acknowledged it just recently, and the police commissioner Wednesday admitted that he knows it's real.

"It's reached a tipping point I think to use that term. They did become more visible this summer. Upon my return in 2009, that there seems to be more of them in my neighborhood," Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

And now police and city hall have launched a new homeless outreach program.

  • It started August 17th and they've identified 80 homeless encampments.

  • Police city teams have visited 50 encampments and 10 have been cleaned.

  • 161 homeless street people have been identified.

  • Of those 161 people, just 10 took the city up on their offer for help.

    "Prior to a visit, the teams will go out and they will offer outreach and assistance and they'll give fair warning of the impending cleanup which could be up to a week after the visit," said Carlos Gomez, NYPD Chief of Patrol.

    By law, New York City has to offer shelter to any homeless person who asks for help.

    That homeless problem has been steadily growing during the Bloomberg years and now with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

  • Right now between 55,000 and 60,000 people, mostly families, live in city shelters.

  • Another 3,000 to 4,000 homeless live on the street.

  • Of those on the street, police say about 40% have mental problems.

  • "We estimate about two percent of that population scares the hell out of everybody, the irrational acts they commit," Bratton said.

    Tuesday, police brass acknowledged the crackdown and the growing numbers, but said police and city teams are trying to compassionately respond.

    Commissioner Bratton noted that homeless people have a constitutional right to beg, if they choose to do so.

    "Those people sitting on the sidewalk with a sign saying 'hungry, need help, etc.' There is really no legal way we can deal with that person unless they are creating fear or intimidation," Bratton said.

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