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Homeless woman in New York
Do off-duty cops really need to take pictures of this woman to prove New York’s in decline? Doesn’t she just need help?Sergeants Benevolent Association via Flickr

New York cops are photographing homeless people

The strange project, led by a police union, puts rough sleepers on a Flickr account in an attempt to show Mayor Bill de Blasio that the city is broken

New York City cops have gotten tired of homeless people on the streets of New York. So tired that they’ve decided to start posting pictures of them online. The Sergeants Benevolent Association, a police union that represents the city’s police sergeants, is urging members, their families, friends and the public to take photos of the city’s homeless in order to prove the city is in decline. The project is called "Peek-a-Boo, We See You!"

“As you travel about the city of New York, please utilize your smartphones to photograph the homeless lying in our streets, aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public or engaging in open-air drug activity, and quality-of-life offences of every type,” says the letter from SBA President Ed Mullins.

quality-of-life offence is something that an officer deems "demoralising to the community" and covers things such as storage of belongings in public spaces and urinating in the street. It’s fairly safe to assume that if you‘re homeless then access to storage or toilets is a little harder to come by.

Mullins goes on to say that while cops can’t take the photos while on duty, “photos may be taken while traveling to and from work or any time off duty.” All these pictures are stored for public viewing on the SBA’s Flickr page. The account is little more than a heartbreaking scrapbook of people living in desperate situations.

So why are the police doing this? Mullins says he decided to launch the crusade after two years of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “failed policies, more homeless encampments on city streets, a 10 per cent increase in homicides, and the diminishing of our hard-earned and well-deserved public perception of the safest large city in America.”

There may well be issues, but this treatment of NYC’s needy feels cruel. The news comes barely two weeks after Fox News tracked down a homeless man who relieved himself on the streets, shoving the camera in his face despite him begging the team to stop, in what can only be described as bullying. Instead of using these people to embarrass a mayor, surely more energy can be used to help them – and the world – tackle the root causes of homelessness.