With the new year now upon us, the bad old days are back with a vengeance. As of Jan. 1, pretrial bail detention is eliminated statewide for virtually all violent and non-violent felonies. Regardless of what you have been told, only the most serious violent crimes such as murder have been excluded from this law. Criminal offenders who are now arrested for arson, vehicular homicide, burglary, endangering the welfare of a child including child porn, possession or sale of a weapon or drugs to a child on or near a school, making a terrorist threat, aiding in a robbery or stalking with a deadly weapon must now be released back to the community immediately after arrest. Judges no longer even have the option of setting bail for offenders with long histories of recidivism that pose a real and imminent danger to the community.
Readers should understand the seriousness of this “justice reform” package that was passed overwhelmingly by Democrats in the Assembly and Senate. Clearly this law was enacted to protect criminals at the expense of law-abiding citizens. Even liberal prosecutors have raised grave concerns about this legislation, and everyone reading this column should share the same concerns and begin holding politicians accountable.
The Republican Party lost control of the state Senate last year. Before then, a divided Legislature tended to keep the extremes of both parties in check by putting the brakes on such radical legislation. Without those checks and balances, it becomes the governor’s responsibility to act as the adult in the room, protecting citizens from the excesses of rigid ideologies. Unfortunately, by signing this legislation he abandoned that role and bears some responsibility for creating this travesty of a revolvingdoor criminal justice system.
Regardless of what we’re being told by the mayor and new Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, crime is on the uptick and this law will only exacerbate it. Most of the suspects arrested in the eight sickening anti-Semitic attacks that occurred over the holidays have already been released without bail in anticipation of the new law. Is this a harbinger of things to come? A sense of uneasiness and social disorder in the subways and streets is eerily reminiscent of the bad old days in New York City when people were sleeping on sidewalks and in subways and homeless encampments were everywhere.
To combat this sense of unease and alarming upsurge in subway crime and fare evasion costing the government more than $300 million, the MTA recently decided to add 500 cops to its transit system: a welcome sight for women and those traveling in an enclosed subway where being prey to criminals has become more prevalent as recent press reports note.
In past years such a decision to increase police presence would have been widely praised. Today, it is met with scorn and derision by Democrat state Sen. Mike Gianaris and others. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler and Jose Serrano signed a letter opposing these cops, stating that, “Arresting hard-working people who cannot afford a $2.75 fare is criminalization of poverty.” When elected Democrat leaders signal that turnstilejumping and busfare evasion should not be punished, is it any wonder that rising crime, disrespect for law enforcement and a systemic breakdown in civil order is the outcome? The flood of anti-policing rhetoric and the deincarceration agenda of seasoned politicians have put the NYPD in retreat mode, a far cry from the proactive policing approach of the past that so successfully kept crime at bay.
With a dramatic 31 percent spike in crime in Central Park and similar trends in other parks, jogging is no longer the carefree exercise it once was. As politicians cherrypick individual statistics to convince us that crime is low, the full panoply of crime statistics tells a different story. Total crime through September 2019 has increased by double-digits compared to the same periods in 2018, 2017 and 2016. Misdemeanor assaults are up 15.9 percent, harassment is up 17.9 percent and groping incidents are up 10.6 percent. These types of offenses are pernicious indicators of crime trends rippling through our communities that touch on the social fabric of our city.
This past week, the governor vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have legalized e-bikes and scooters. In his veto message he stated the bill lacked sufficient “safety measures” such as helmets, lights and horns, which would create a danger to the public. Where was that similar concern for the public when he signed the bill to end predetention bail, which will flood our streets with dangerous criminals? Such a decision by a seemingly “mainstream” governor is clear evidence that the most radical elements of the Democratic Party now control its agenda. Until political leaders tone down the dangerous rhetoric, and voters hold them accountable, we will continue to see a real-time collapse of civil norms.
Bob Friedrich is President of Glen Oaks Village, a civic leader and a former City Council candidate.