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Following January crime spike, NYPD officials point finger at bail reform

February 5, 2020 Mary Frost
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Shea unveiled January crime statistics in Harlem on Tuesday. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.
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While the rate of murder went down in New York City in January, the rate of just about every other major type of crime increased significantly last month, figures released by NYPD on Tuesday showed.

The crime spike has sparked a debate over the state’s new bail reform laws, which took effect Jan. 1. Critics of the reform blamed the rise in crime on the release of suspects without bail, but those in favor of the laws have said that’s a rush to judgment.

Between January 2019 and January 2020, shootings went up 29 percent, robberies were up 37 percent, burglaries jumped 21 percent, auto thefts shot up 72 percent, grand larcenies were 11 percent and felony assaults increased 8 percent, according to NYPD figures. Transit crimes shot up 30 percent.

There were more shootings this year — 67 this January compared to 52 last January. On the positive side, the murder rate was down 21 percent. Hate crimes also decreased by 24 percent. Rape declined 18 percent, but rape continues to be under-reported, NYPD said.

“Overall crime [is] up almost 17 percent among those key index crimes. That’s cause for real concern,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference Tuesday. He added, “Important good news: murders down, rape down this January compared to last so we see some things that are going in the right direction.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea blamed the crime spike in part on the release of more offenders as a result of the new bail reform laws.

“With the passing of the new law, we saw … pretty dramatic increase in the people that were let out of Rikers in accordance with the law, and that’s something that we will deal with,” he said.

Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri also pointed to the bail reforms.

“When we look at who is either a victim or a perpetrator in the 67 [shooting] incidents, we see a large increase of somebody being on parole or probation. So 21 out of our 67 incidents, or 31.3 percent, involve either somebody on parole or probation. That is the largest number that we’ve seen since we started recording this back in 2003.”

The increase in crimes happened across the city with the exception of Staten Island, he said. While housing crime rose more in Manhattan, transit crimes increased more than average in Brooklyn North Transit.

Chief Delatorre said transit crime is up primarily due to robberies.

“We’re up about 60 crimes, 40 of them are robberies and the overwhelming majority of those robberies were in Brooklyn. Within Brooklyn, we had a lot of small groups out there committing these robberies and we’ve pretty much arrested most of those groups, if not all,” he said.

De Blasio pointed to the successes of the past six years, and discussed new youth outreach efforts he expected would lay the groundwork for lowering the crime rate in the future.

“Youth coordination officers will be the nexus of all those efforts. They’ll identify the kids on the cusp of crime, find the right programs, and make critical connections on their behalf,” he said.

New Youth Coordination Officers will start this spring, and will complement the NYPD’s Neighborhood Policing efforts.

Local media outlets have drawn criticism for inciting panic over the new laws.

The Daily News and the New York Post published stories on Sunday stating that a man had been “set free to rape,” and had committed a sexual assault in Bay Ridge after his release from Rikers Island without bail. To date the District Attorney’s Office has only charged that suspect with criminal possession of stolen property and larceny, not with any sexual offense.

Marie Ndayie, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, called the incident a “new low” for the NYPD.

Police seemed “more concerned with leaking cases to the press to malign the new bail reforms than with getting basic facts correct,” Ndayie said.

Additional reporting by Alex Williamson. 

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