Assaults on Social Service Workers On the Rise: City Agencies

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New York City’s social service agencies are supporting a bill that would make assaulting their employees a felony, up from a misdemeanor offense

Linda Gibbs, the city’s deputy mayor for Health and Human Services, said those kinds of incidents are on the rise, according to data from the Administration for Children’s Services, the Department for Homeless Services and the Human Resources Administration.

“In 2009, we had 29 reported incidences,” Gibbs said, during a news conference at City Hall on Monday. “That jumped to 56 in 2010, and then jumped again to 61 in 2011.”

The state Senate has already approved a measure that would upgrade the penalty from a misdemeanor crime to a class D felony. State Senator Martin Golden, who sponsored the bill, said that's a difference between a maximum sentence of one year to a maximum sentence of two to six years in prison.

Golden pointed out that similar protections are already in place for other city employees.

He said social workers are often on “the front lines,” and can find themselves in dangerous situations, especially during home visits.

“These social workers are not trained to go in there to be police officers,” Golden said. “They’re trained to work with families in crisis.”

It’s unclear if the state Assembly will take up the bill before the end of this year’s legislative session.

Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Silver, said they're looking at a number of proposals on this topic, and no final decisions have been made.

Denise Blostein contributed reporting