Since the city brought in 20 homeless men to live at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth on Monday, Oct. 10 — with the possibility of more coming in the future — residents have reiterated their concerns over safety and security at the hotel.
Captain Mark Wachter, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, eased some of those concerns at Tuesday night’s Precinct Community Council meeting at St. Margaret Parish Hall in Middle Village where he laid out his current security plan regarding the shelter.
“At one of the first community meetings I spoke at, people weren’t happy that I had a plan,” Wachter said. “But how I look at is, I’d rather have a plan if something happens and if I don’t have a plan and something happens, guess what, I’m going to be scrambling trying to get a plan. So I’d rather sit down and get a security plan. But obviously that security plan is not in effect because the shelter is not fully staffed.”
The current plan for the hotel is to rent out 30 rooms, two of which will be used for client services and staff, which can house up to 56 homeless men at the hotel.
When the hotel converted a portion of their rooms for the new homeless residents, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) placed their own police at the facility.
Their main function is to make sure there are no arguments, fighting or any crimes committed by the homeless residents staying at the hotel. Acacia Network, the group that runs the shelter, has their own security to make sure there are no problems with the homeless as well. The hotel also has security guards on-site, Wachter noted.
The 104th Precinct has two officers visit the hotel three to four times per day, Wachter said.
“Their job is basically to [liaise] with the Holiday Inn staff, DHS and Acacia security to make sure nothing goes wrong,” he added. “I understand the concerns of the community, and my job is to ensure the safety of the 170,000 residents that live in this precinct and to ensure the safety of any hotel guests that go there.”
Wacther confirmed that the NYPD does not have officers stationed at the hotel, and they are not going to. Police officers will be used to make sure no crime takes place inside the hotel or outside of it, not to patrol the hotel.
If the hotel does turn into a full shelter, Wachter’s security plan will go into effect, which includes increased DHS police, security and more security measures such as identification cards to get in and out of the shelter.