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Mayor Bill de Blasio orders NYC shelter system safety review

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference in Brooklyn on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

An NYPD management team will be dispatched to the city Department of Homeless Services to review safety protocols in the violence-plagued shelter system, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

“We’re sending an assessment team over to take a good, hard look and see what the structure looks like, and see what we need to do to keep everybody safe,” Police Chief of Department James O’Neill told reporters at City Hall.

De Blasio’s order comes amid a spate of brutal incidents at shelters, including a fatal throat-slitting in East Harlem in January and the slayings of a woman and her two daughters in Staten Island last month, allegedly by her boyfriend.

A recently concluded 90-day homeless services review by the mayor’s office showed domestic violence accounted for 80 percent of “critical incidents” at shelters with adult families. It found domestic violence made up 60 percent of such conflicts among sheltered families with children.

The city will reinstitute domestic violence services that ended in 2010, expanding the No Violence Again program that provides assessment and counseling and referring families in unhealthy relationships for expert help, city officials said.

The Department of Homeless Services also has changed the way it tracks critical incidents, collecting more detailed data and creating new reporting categories, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks said.

The main focus had been on deaths or life-threatening injuries, Banks said.

Last year, under old and overly broad definitions, there were 620 systemwide critical incidents, city officials said. In the same period, under the new, more detailed categories, there were 1,687 incidents, 826 of which were violent, officials said.

The NYPD must develop a training program for Department of Homeless Services workers, O’Neill said. It will take several weeks to form an assessment team, he said, and more time to put together a likely three-day training program for shelter security personnel.

They include law enforcement officers, contract security guards and private guards retained by shelters with city funding, Banks said.

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