NYPD commissioner links crime spike to bail reform
Commissioner Dermot Shea said judges must be able to hold repeat offenders in order to avoid future spikes in crime
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A rise in crime during the first weeks of 2020 is directly tied to bail reforms that took away New York judges’ discretion to lock up potentially violent offenders, NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said Friday.
“In the first three weeks of this year, were seeing significant spikes in crime," Shea said.
It’s not the police department’s fault, he said — “either we forgot how to police New York City, or there’s a correlation” with the bail laws.
Murders are down so far this year — the NYPD has counted 10 in the city so far in 2020, compared to 20 in the same period of 2019.
But the overall crime rate is up 11%, NYPD CompStat data through Jan. 19 shows. In raw numbers, the police count 5,043 serious crimes this year, up from 4,542 in the same period of 2019.
The rise is driven by a 32% surge in robberies, a 15% surge in burglaries, and a 67% surge in stolen vehicles.
Police say 52 people have been shooting victims this year — up from 40 in the same period of 2019, a jump of 30%.
Shea took his concerns to Albany on Tuesday, where he met with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and aides to Gov. Cuomo. “Nothing is more important to us,” he said of police worry about the bail law, including that it denies judges the authority to lock up potentially dangerous criminals.
The reforms eliminated bail for most misdemeanors and some felonies, and took away judges’ discretion to decide whether suspects’ threat to public safety should factor in whether they must post bail to keep their freedom while awaiting trial.
Advocates say the reforms have leveled the playing field, particularly for poor people who can’t afford bail and have typically been more likely to plead guilty, even if they are not, so they can return to their lives.
Shea said he supports many parts of the reforms. "Someone committing a crime and sitting in jail because of their bank account or lack of a bank account has to be corrected,” he said.
"But there are clear things that have to be fixed — and the clock is ticking,'' he added.
Another aspect of the reforms requires prosecutors to give defense lawyers turn over to the defense within 15 days evidence in the case, including the names of victims and witnesses. That aspect of the law doesn’t make headlines — but Shea said it has created its own problems.
''Witness intimidation is real," the commissioner said. “If you don’t think it’s happening you’re being naive." He added that “you can not forget victims and witnesses in this discussion.”
Advocates of the bail reform laws have accused law enforcement of fear-mongering and said a few highly publicized cases of criminal suspects committing crimes while they are free awaiting trial on other charges obscure the reforms' real benefits.
But Shea says the law is having a dramatic impact.
“People say, 'It just took affect — you can’t have consequences,” Shea said. “Take a look at the CompStat sheet.”