Crime spike can’t be pinned on bail reform, electeds and advocates say

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Two New York City Councilmembers have joined legal advocates in disputing Police Commissioner Dermot Shea’s claim that January’s spike in major crimes was caused by the newly implemented bail reform law.

“Crime data figures released by the NYPD itself demonstrate no such correlation, and we’re wondering whether there is any other, unpublished data you relied upon to conclude that crime is increasing because of the bail reform law. If not, we call on you to publicly withdraw your comments,” Queens Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Rory Lancman wrote to Commissioner Shea on Thursday.

“Simply put, your numbers don’t add up, and the public and policymakers are ill-served by false narratives that inhibit legitimate conversations about improving the bail reform law,” they wrote.

Shea had said at a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday that last month, the city saw a “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.”

Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri also blamed bail reforms for an increase in the number of shootings.

“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,” he said.

The bail reform, which took effect Jan. 1, eliminates cash bail for defendants accused of a misdemeanor offense and nonviolent felonies.

After analyzing the CompStat figures released by the NYPD, however, Richards and Lancman concluded that something “other than bail reform” must be behind the almost 17 percent spike in index crimes, which include crimes like shootings, robbery and felony assaults. (Murder and reported rapes decreased in January.)

The Councilmembers said that there were 1,222 more index crimes this January compared to last, but only 84 of these could be attributed to the 143 individuals released without bail that month, less than 7 percent of the increase in index crimes.

Including both index and non-index crimes, 230 were attributed to individuals released without bail last month.

“Clearly, something other than bail reform caused our January crime numbers to spike,” they wrote. “Even these numbers overstate bail reform’s impact, because as you know a significant number of those released pretrial without bail under the new system would have likewise been released without bail, or would have posted bail, even under the pre-reform bail system.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union also claimed NYPD brass were playing a numbers game.

“Commissioner Shea and Mayor de Blasio should be more focused on ensuring our new bail law is being followed properly rather than manipulating statistics to fit their misguided narrative that giving low-income New Yorkers the same privileges as wealthier people is somehow linked to crime,” NYCLU Policy Counsel Nicole Triplett said in a statement.

She added, “No correlation could be or should be made to reforms that have been in place for only one month.”

Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch pointed his finger at de Blasio for the increase in crime.

“Bail reform is not the only problem here,” he 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,” Lynch, a long-time de Blasio critic, said.

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

“Overall crime [is] up almost 17 percent among those key index crimes. That’s cause for real concern,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at Tuesday’s press conference.

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 working this spring, and will complement the NYPD’s neighborhood policing efforts.