NYPD Commissioner Blames Bail Reform for 17% Increase in Crime

(Bloomberg) -- New York City crime jumped 17% in January from a year earlier, a rise that may be attributable to 2019 changes in the state’s bail laws, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

The city saw a 29% increase in shootings -- 67 compared to 52 in January 2019 -- as well as more robberies, burglaries, assaults, grand larceny and auto thefts, according to NYPD statistics. The crime increase, though only for one month, runs counter to a 27-year trend of decreases.

“We saw a pretty big increase from the people who were let out of Rikers,” Shea said at a news conference Tuesday, referring to Rikers Island, the city’s main jail in which hundreds of pre-trial defendants are detained. “We have seen instances of people getting arrested post-Jan. 1, and getting rearrested. We have a challenge here, but we will get past this challenge.”

The bail-reform law has been controversial ever since the Democratic-controlled state legislature approved it and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it last year.

The law eliminated imposition of bail for many non-violent crimes, and reduced judges’ power to set high bail that kept defendants in custody even when they posed low flight risk. Republicans running for the the state legislature have seized on the law as a campaign issue this year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed that the law needs to be changed and said city officials are negotiating refinements with Albany lawmakers. New York remains the safest U.S. city, he added.

“We saw things emanating from this law months ago,” de Blasio said. “We’ve raised concerns, we’re in dialogue with Albany about those concerns. This police department has handled things thrown at them, they always have. We will go ahead with adjusted strategies, specific approaches, and I believe the dialogue in Albany will be productive.”

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the increase showed a lack of leadership in the city and in the department.

“Bail reform is not the only problem here,” Lynch said in a statement. “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.”

De Blasio rejected Lynch’s comments as politically motivated.

Tina Luongo, The Legal Aid Society‘s attorney in charge of criminal defense practice, said it’s too early to attribute the crime increase to the change in the law.

“One month of data cannot tell us anything meaningful about crime trends,” Luongo said in an email. “The fact remains that crime is at all-time historic lows, and has been consistently low even as release rates from pre-trial detention have steadily risen.”

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