NYC Administration of Children’s Services spends 6 figures on calling NYPD

Monday August 21st, (now former) Daily News reporter, Shaun King released Part 1 of Soul Snatchers: How the NYPD’s 42nd precinct, Bronx DA and City of New York Conspired to Destroy Black and Brown Lives. King has collated damning receipts of the systematic government sanctioned police violence that Black and Hispanic families in New York City have experienced for generations. That same day, the Administration of Children’s Services published an award of $157,864 to Alert Media for their “safety app”, SafeSignal. The app allows caseworkers who feel threatened during an investigation to pull a tether from their phone, signalling the local NYPD precinct to respond at their location.

An investigation of child abuse and maltreatment begins with a hotline phone call. The caller is not required to identify themselves or provide any evidence of abuse to substantiate their claim. Making the call is a weapon of choice for spurned abusive boyfriends and gentrifying landlords eager to push out rent stabilized tenants. Larissa MacFarquhar’s New Yorker article When Should Children Be Removed from their Parents, explains how an investigation begins:

“You will hear a knock on the door, often late at night. You don’t have to open it, but if you don’t the caseworker outside may come back with the police. The caseworker will tell you you’re being investigated for abusing or neglecting your children. She will tell you to wake them up and tell them to take clothes off so she can check their bodies for bruises and marks. She will interview you and your kids separately, so you can’t hear what she’s asking them or what they’re saying.”

Now imagine you get upset with the worker and begin questioning her decision to strip search your kids. Imagine you have children with special needs throwing tantrums or impulsively running around once they’ve been woken up from their sleep. The worker feels threatened, pulls the SafeSignal tether and armed NYPD officers arrive.

The CEO and founder of Alert Media is Brian Cruver. He began his career at Enron, “making a market” for bankruptcy/credit derivatives in the 9 months leading to its collapse. He had a negligible role in the historic accounting fraud as a new hire. Yet he easily parlayed his brush with fraud into book deal, Anatomy of Greed: Enron from an Almost Insider, within weeks of termination. An early Baltimore Sun review gives you a window into Cruver’s ethical landscape, “With Enron near death, he exploits the company’s free-computer program for employees, cashes thousands of dollars in post-layoff paychecks he wasn’t supposed to get and calls around the world on his Enron phone after the account was accidentally left active.”

424,446 children have been involved in a NYC ACS investigation in the last 5 years. Calls are concentrated in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods which are already heavily policed. ACS claims it “protects and promotes safety and well-being of New York City’s children”. Why is it spending six figures on making an already adverse childhood experience of investigation more permeable to law enforcement?

Bearing witness to the present. Tentatively hopeful for the future. Middle name preferred. Follow me on twitter @upfromthecracks.