NYPD Commissioner: Bail Reform Law Linked to Crime Spike in NYC

January 27, 2020 Updated: January 27, 2020

New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea has attributed the recent increase in crimes in the city to the new bail reform laws that came into effect on Jan. 1.

Speaking at a press conference on Jan. 24, Shea told reporters that he believes the rise is linked to the implementation of the new bail reform laws (pdf) that abolished cash bail for defendants arrested for many misdemeanors, including assaults without serious injury, and other nonviolent felonies, and include specific provisions encouraging courts to release defendants “on recognizance” while their cases are pending.

The court’s decision to release a defendant must also not be based on an assessment of the defendant’s future dangerousness or risk to public safety, the law states.

Nonviolent offenses include most property crimes, such as theft, larceny, embezzlement, receipt of stolen goods, and arson of personal property; various drug and alcohol-related crimes, traffic offenses such as speeding; and contract crimes such as fraud and tax crimes.

“In the first three weeks of this year, we’re seeing significant spikes in crime. So either we forgot how to police New York City, or there’s a correlation,” Shea said.

“If you let out individuals that commit a lot of crime, that’s precision policing in reverse, and we’re seeing the effects in a very quick time, and that is why we’re so concerned.”

Elaborating further on his concerns with the new law, Shea said: “You have to have a situation where dangerous individuals or individuals that repeatedly commit crimes and victimize people are kept in, and if judges don’t have that ability, I think we’re all in trouble.”

“We are seeing increases in crime at the beginning of this year, and that’s directly attributable, I believe.”

NYPD crime data (pdf) through Jan. 19 compared with the same period in 2019 showed robberies up 31.5 percent, burglaries up 15 percent, grand larceny up 5.6 percent, and a 67 percent surge in stolen vehicles. The total for all serious felonies was up 11 percent over 2019.

Murders are down by 50 percent so far, with the NYPD counting 10 in the city so far in 2020, compared to 20 in the same period of 2019.

Shea told reporters on Jan. 24 that while he supports some aspects of the new reform, some things still need to be adjusted.

“Someone committing a crime and sitting in jail because of their bank account, or lack of a bank account, has to be corrected, so there are many things in that bill that we support,” he said.

“But there are clear things that have to be fixed, and the clock is ticking.”

“The police need tools to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Shea said he traveled to Albany on Jan. 21 to discuss the matter and his concerns with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-N.Y.) and aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Nothing is more important to us,” he said of police worry about the bail laws.

Activists in the bail reform movement have praised the new legislation for curbing discrimination against poorer defendants.

However, those opposed to the new laws have expressed concerns about potential implications for public safety, suggesting that eliminating bail may lead to violent criminals returning to the streets.

President Donald Trump also criticized the controversial reform in November 2019.

“So sad to see what is happening in New York where Governor Cuomo & Mayor DeBlasio are letting out 900 Criminals, some hardened & bad, onto the sidewalks of our rapidly declining, because of them, city. The Radical Left Dems are killing our cities. NYPD Commissioner is resigning!” he wrote on Twitter.

More than 40 states are currently considering bail reform measures.