Two violent incidents at Pam’s Settlement, a women’s homeless shelter in Long Island City, left several shelter residents and police officers injured, according to the commanding officer of the 114th Precinct.
Captain Peter Fortune spoke about the incidents at a Community Board 1 (CB 1) meeting on Tuesday and requested that the board reach out to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to better coordinate with police to increase security at the shelter, which opened in October at the former Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th St.
On Feb. 11, police responded to a call of a dispute among shelter roommates. A woman struck her roommate with a metal object and was placed under arrest, Fortune said.
Officers brought her to Weill Cornell Medical Center, the medical school at Cornell University, to be treated. While police were escorting the woman out of the ambulance, Fortune said, she became “very aggressive” and headbutted an officer, who sustained minor injuries.
Because the woman was arrested, police were responsible for watching her until she was released, he said. The next day, the patient became aggressive again and hit an officer with a metal IV pole and kicked him several times.
Police were called to the shelter again on Feb. 12 when a resident who refused to go through the metal detector broke the device. She then proceeded to throw chairs and soda bottles in the lobby. The woman was arrested and transported to Weill Cornell Medicine for a psychiatric evaluation.
Fortune also added that police have had to respond to calls of residents trying to hurt themselves and a chronic 911 call from someone who has repeatedly reported that a woman was stabbed inside the shelter. The precinct has also received complaints of women harassing store owners in the area.
“It’s always been a quality-of-life issue down there and were doing our best to improve that,” Fortune said. “It’s definitely been a challenge with the 114th, where sometimes we would like to do some other things … and we have to focus more resources down at The Verve.”
District Manager Florence Koulouris, who attends monthly community advisory meetings with staff at the shelter, said there have also been issues with “aggressive panhandling.” Some women at the shelter frequently steal from a local pharmacy and businesses in the area, she said. Acacia Network, the service providers for the shelter, said its security staff would do roving car patrols to monitor the women when they are out of the shelter but have not been doing an adequate job, according to Koulouris.
“The problem is we’ve been getting a lot of excuses [from Acacia Network] because [they always say] there are problems with the vehicle, the vehicle is in the shop,” Koulouris said. “Supposedly they’re using private unmarked cars for this which is completely unacceptable because the patients of The Verve … they don’t see the cars. Their awareness is down and they attend to act inappropriate.”
Fortune said he has been in contact with Acacia Network to discuss the two recent violent incidents, which they were unaware of.
“They should know what’s going on over there,” Fortune said. “When I told them some of these incidents, they had no idea that this was even happening. In fact, they asked me for names of who was involved.”
CB 1 members voted to draft a letter to both the DHS and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to request that more coordination take place between the city agencies and police to increase security and safety.
“Our number one priority is ensuring the safety of our residents in shelters, as well as the surrounding communities,” a spokesperson for DHS said. “We currently have 24/7 security at this specific facility with four to six security guards on duty throughout the day. As part of our 90-day review of homeless services, we are continuing to review security needs and will continue to work with community leaders as we do so.”
Officials also added that Acacia Network currently has one full-time security manager on-site and a security supervisor on every tour, six security guards on the daytime and afternoon shifts and four security guards on the overnight shift.
The site is also equipped with a walkthrough magnetometer and x-ray machine and was also given additional funding for security that allowed the security staff to patrol the site and conduct random community patrols, officials said.
Acacia Network did not respond to requests for comment.