In making his latest comment on the negative impact the state’s bail-reform law has had, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea pointed to city crime stats that for the first 19 days of the year showed auto thefts up 67 percent compared to the same period in 2019, robberies up 32 percent, transit crimes 21-percent higher, and 15 percent more burglaries. That translated to 440 additional crimes in those areas.
He told reporters, “So either we forgot how to police New York City or there’s a correlation.”
Common sense says “correlation” is the right answer. If criminals discover that they can commit a crime and get caught but immediately be placed back on the street because of the elimination of cash bail—even for some violent crimes—under the new law, at least some of them are going to figure: why not commit a similar crime and see if they can get away with it completely? It’s a foolish impulse, but then the people who commit such offenses generally aren’t known for long-term thinking skills.
That’s something they tend to have in common with politicians, who also are sometimes slow to learn from moves that have consequences they hadn’t fully anticipated. And so even as Governor Cuomo and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have begun talking about revisions to the bail law, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie insisted it was too soon to draw conclusions about the impact of the changes, and flatly ruled out giving judges the discretion to have the power to remand the accused based on “dangerousness,” which has never been a criterion in New York but is used in virtually every other state in the nation.
He said he was concerned that such a subjective judgment would work to the detriment of people of color in deciding when bail should be set.
It depends on your vantage point, or your squeamishness about turning loose people accused in gruesome crimes based on the new standard. A prime example would be the release Jan. 13 of Jordan Randolph, a day after, while allegedly under the influence, he drove at speeds of more than 135 miles per hour on the William Floyd Parkway before smashing into another car and killing Jonathan Flores-Maldonado.
Mr. Randolph has been indicted on charges that include aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter and felony DWI, according to the New York Post. He also has three prior DWI convictions as part of an extensive criminal record.
We’re frankly astonished that, even with the new bail standard, Suffolk County officials could not order him locked up as a flight risk, given that the charges he’s facing could and should produce such a long sentence if convicted that Mr. Randolph would have greater reason than before not to continue showing up for court hearings. It was only after he was discovered to be a parole violator that he was finally ordered held without bail three days after his release.
If a case like that one is not sufficiently shocking to the conscience of Mr. Heastie and his Democratic conference in the Assembly, perhaps they should take note of state Republicans having released an ad putting the blame for the crime spike squarely on the shoulders of Governor Cuomo “and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.”
Even if Mr. Heastie feels his Assembly majority is sturdy enough to withstand such a campaign this election year, he might remember that a decade ago, Democrats got and lost a State Senate majority in a two-year span because of voter outrage. A recent poll showed a sharp swing in public opinion against the new law in contrast to the reaction when it was approved last spring.
Commissioner Shea could have been explaining the reason for that shift when he remarked, “We were arresting people over and over and over again with no repercussions. I think we can all agree that’s the definition of insanity.”
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