NYC Sergeants' Union Launches Social Media Campaign to Document Homeless on Streets

The New York City police detectives' union has launched a social media campaign to expose what it's calling a growing homelessness problem in the city. 

The Sergeants Benevolent Association emailed a letter to members Monday asking them to upload photos to a Flickr website and urging them to document "the homeless lying in our streets, aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public or engaging in open-air drug activity, and quality-of-life offenses of every time," according to the New York Post, which obtained a copy of the email. 

The union will then notify public officials of what's being observed on the streets and "help create accountability across the board," said SBA President Ed Mullins. 

"We, 'the Good Guys,' are sworn to protect our citizens," he wrote. "Shouldn't our public officials be held to the same standard?" 

He added that he was responding "to the past two years of “failed policies, more homeless encampments on city streets, a 10 percent increase in homicides, and the diminishing of our hard-earned and well-deserved public perception of the safest large city in America."

Mayor de Blasio fired back Monday afternoon: "We're going to have very consistent quality-of-life enforcement all over this city for any kind of offense, and that includes if a homeless person commits it." 

The city recorded more than 56,000 people in its homeless shelters this week, an increase over about 53,000 individuals at the end of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure. Another 3,000 are estimated to eschew shelters and live on the city's streets.

Last week, de Blasio unveiled a plan to help New Yorkers suffering from mental illness, an early move that's also aimed at combating increasingly visible homelessness in the city.

De Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray, who is spearheading mental health initiatives in the city, said better care could lead to a reduction in violence committed by mental illness sufferers on city streets, and in its homeless shelters and jails.

Officials said the program will provide more training for police officers to deal with emotionally disturbed individuals and install peace officers and clinical staff at city homeless shelters. De Blasio warned New Yorkers not to stigmatize people with mental illness, saying that only a small fraction of them are violent.

City officials said more efforts to reduce homelessness, including a housing plan, would be unveiled in the coming months.

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