New York Crime Rose 16.9% Last Month, as Bail Law Took Effect

NEW YORK -
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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (R) and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea (2nd R) at a press conference Tuesday to announce the latest crime statistics, at the Police Athletic league in Harlem. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Crime in New York City soared in January, just as a new state bail-reform law went into effect.

The seven major index crimes rose last month to 8,437 incidents, up 16.9% from 7,215 incidents in January 2019. Five of the index crimes rose, led by grand larceny auto with a 72.5% increase and robbery with a 36.8% rise. Murder saw a 20.7% drop compared with the same month last year.

Hate crimes, which had soared in 2019, decreased last month, with 29 reported incidents compared with 38 in January of the previous year. Anti-Semitic incidents dropped from 25 to 21, comprising 72% of all hate-crime complaints. In all of 2019, 55% of hate-crimes were anti-Semitic.

Sixteen of the 21 anti-Semitic crimes were scrawled swastikas.

The drop in anti-Semitic crimes may have been due to an enhanced police presence in Brooklyn’s Jewish neighborhoods following an assault on a Chanukah celebration in Monsey that injured six people, one critically.

The extra patrols were recently scaled back, according to residents who spoke with Hamodia.

A state law that went into effect January 1 eliminating cash bail for nearly all misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenders has come under harsh criticism from some state and city lawmakers, as a number of people arrested and released without bail have promptly re-offended.

Bail-reform advocates, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, have argued that it is unfair to hold people in jail simply because they are impoverished and cannot pay bail.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has expressed concern with the bail reform. At a press conference with de Blasio announcing crime statistics Tuesday, Shea said, “We saw a pretty a dramatic increase in the people that were let out of Rikers in accordance with the law … we have seen examples of people [being released without bail after] January 1st and then getting rearrested.”

But Shea did not advocate for completely tossing the bail-reform law, saying he supports “the principal of it, why it was done.”

“I think that is all an essential part of this discussion – leveling the playing field, being fair about criminal justice in New York,” said the commissioner. “I think we can get to a good place with small fixes.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, de Blasio agreed with the need to tweak the reforms, saying he and Shea had spoken earlier in the day with State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and that there is an “important dialogue going on with our state leaders to figure out a way forward.”

Asked whether judges should be allowed to consider whether a suspect is likely to re-offend, rather than only flight risk, in assessing bail, de Blasio said, “There is a way, I think, and we’re working on that specific language to address that real-world condition, but to ensure it’s done equitably. And I think that has to do with a lot of the history about an individual, including things like have they followed judicial orders previously, parole, probation, a whole host of issues can be looked at that give you objective measures.”

De Blasio said he believes “the impulse of the legislature was correct to address the issues where there was historic bias, whether it was based on race or economics.”

“But that doesn’t mean that history moves in just one massive broad stroke or another,” said the mayor. “We’ve got to strike some balance in the equation and I think we can find a way to do that.”

State Sen. Simcha Felder, a critic of de Blasio’s liberal criminal justice policies, believes the rise in crime is not merely attributable to a recent change in the state’s bail laws.

“No matter how much I dislike it, bail reform could not have had this effect in one month,” Felder told Hamodia Tuesday. “With our own eyes we all saw crime steadily rising with the elimination of stop-and-frisk, broken windows policing and the constant chipping away at the authority of the NYPD. The cumulative results have finally come home to roost. I don’t need to look for other excuses when the blame lies plainly at the Mayor’s doorstep.”

Another de Blasio critic, Patrick Lynch, President of the Police Benevolent Association, also blamed the mayor, saying, “It is now clear that we have a public safety emergency in New York City.”

“New Yorkers need to reject Mayor de Blasio’s easy excuses,” Lynch said in a statement Tuesday. “Bail reform is not the only problem here. The double-digit increases in shootings, robberies, burglary and thefts aren’t the product of any single law or policy. They are the result of failed leadership and a political culture that denigrates and devalues the work police officers do.

“This is what happens when our city leaders sit silent or issue weak, belated statements when the mob in the street chants for ‘dead cops.’ For the past six years, Mayor de Blasio and many other elected officials have sent a single, clear message about their lack of support for law enforcement. And these terrible statistics show that the criminals of New York have heard that message, loud and clear.”

Asked about Lynch’s comments, Shea said, “I would disagree with that. I think that when times get tough, that’s when it’s more important than ever to work together. And that goes within the police department, within the union ranks, within elected officials and everyone else. You know, we have challenges here, there is no doubt … But … at the same time, I’m optimistic and I have confidence and it’s more important than ever that we find a common ground, pull together, and find our way to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Both the mayor and commissioner expressed the belief that despite challenges related to the bail law, gains in crime-fighting can continue to be made.

“I really think there are two kinds of people in New York City – there’s people who are rooting for New York City and there are people who are rooting against New York City,” said the mayor, describing the NYPD as “the finest police force on earth, who have driven down crime the last six years in a row while building a much stronger relationship with communities.”

“If the head of a police union or anyone else wants to say that this city is going in the wrong direction, they are rooting against New York City, they are wishing for New York City to fail and that’s for their own political reasons,” said the mayor. “Let’s be clear, you cannot look at a quarter-century of consistent progress and ignore it … the vast majority of New Yorkers want to see a tighter bond between the NYPD and communities and feel that we have left a lot of those divisions in the past. So we’re always going to have challenges, but if you have faith in the NYPD – this is the great irony – do you have faith in the NYPD or not?”

“Maybe Mr. Lynch doesn’t. I do.”

 

rborchardt@hamodia.com


Updated Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 7:22 pm .