The city that never sleeps is living up to its name. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton recently announced that people will no longer be permitted to sleep on the subway. Those who police do catch sleeping in public will be nudged awake, reports The New York Daily News.
According to Bratton, this new initiative is being implemented to prevent crime, as 50 percent of reported subway crimes involve a sleeping passenger.
“Subways are not for sleeping,” Bratton said. “I know people have gotten out of work and are tired, but we are going to start waking people up.”
Per reports, officers will use their own discretion when deciding whether or not to wake someone up. A quick napper during rush hour might be given a free pass; someone asleep at at 2 a.m., however, won’t be so lucky.
Though Bratton says he’s coming into this with admirable intentions, it’s questionable whether he’ll actually be able to enforce the policy. Back in August, the Department of Justice ruled that Boise, Idaho’s ordinance making it illegal to sleep in public was a violation of the 8th amendment, which protects citizens against cruel and unusual punishment. Since sleep is a “life-sustaining activity” that must occur at some time or place, a person can’t be punished for it.
City officials in Sacramento, California faced criticism in October when they passed a law banning people from sleeping on trains. Activists believed this was a not-so-subtle slight toward the city’s roughly 3,000 homeless. In interviews with Van Winkle’s, activists protested the city’s lack of shelter space and affordable housing as reasons why the law was inhumane.
New York, meanwhile, has a homeless population of more than 59,000. The subject of where they should sleep at night has long been the subject of controversy from many city and state officials. Just last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order demanding that all homeless people be removed from the streets and moved to shelters when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It was intended to protect homeless from the cold.
That order was criticized by Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, in an interview with The Associated Press.
“The approach of the order is misguided … what’s needed is permanent housing and services, not these kind of tactics,” she said.