Recidivists fuel New York City's rise in crime, mayor and police officials say
By Laura Ly and Ray Sanchez, CNN
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and police officials on Wednesday released data showing that the number of people arrested three or more times a year for crimes such as robbery, burglary and grand larceny increased significantly during the first six months of 2022.
Adams, a moderate Democrat and former police officer, has made calls for a change in bail laws to give judges discretion to consider a defendant's "dangerousness" to the community a key part of efforts to combat rising crime in the city.
In New York, unlike every other state, judges can't consider the harm a defendant may pose to others in setting bail.
Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said judges should be able to consider public safety and be allowed to remand defendants at their arraignments "based on the severity of their alleged crimes or their history of recidivism."
Adams on Wednesday insisted the release of the new data on recidivism and its role in the city's crime wave was not an attack on bail reform but a rather window into what he called a "revolving door of justice."
"As a result of this insane broken system, our recidivism rates have skyrocketed and those who say the predicted wave of recidivism wouldn't happen, and the studies that claim to show the rate of arrest for violent felonies has not changed since the reforms were passed, I have one word for you -- wrong. You are wrong," Adams told reporters at a news conference with NYPD brass.
Adams and police officials said 211 defendants were arrested at least three times for burglary through June of this year -- a 142.5% increase compared with 87 people in the first six months of 2017.
For shoplifting, 899 people were arrested three times through June -- a jump of 88.9% over the 476 defendants in the same period in 2017.
Adams and police officials said nearly 25% of people arrested for burglary committed another felony within 60 days, compared with 8% in 2017. Data for grand larceny and grand larceny auto showed nearly identical increases for 2021, compared with 2017, city officials said.
Officials said the city's "worst-of-the-worst recidivists" include an offender with 101 career arrests -- 88 of them since 2020; another defendant out on parole after 57 arrests since 2020, including 23 for burglary; an offender now out on the street despite 63 arrests, including 13 for grand larceny auto and 39 arrests since 2020.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Thursday that she and the mayor are cooperating on many levels but pointed to some bail changes that are "still not doing the job."
"Some of the bail changes done in 2018, reformed again in 2020, were still not doing the job, that I needed to be done here, and that is to protect New Yorkers," Hochul said.
It takes time to change a culture and a system since the legislature isn't back and in effect until January, Hochul added.
Hochul, who was asked Thursday about the mayor's remarks, also agreed with the mayor that people who were arrested on gun crimes should not have been let out of jail.
The governor said she wants New York to be a state that doesn't just slow down an increase in crime, but sees an overall decline.
"That, to me, is success, when we start reducing the incidents of gun violence," she said.
In a statement, the Legal Aid Society accused the Adams administration of cherry-picking "a handful of cases to misguide New Yorkers and convince them that bail reform is responsible for all of society's ills."
The non-profit public defender organization urged the state legislature to reject calls for a "dangerousness" provision to the bail statute. "Short of a crystal ball, no judge - or human being for that matter - can predict future behavior," the statement said.
"Condemning more New Yorkers to languish at Rikers Island -- a facility mired in crises perpetuated by this Administration's inability and refusal to meaningfully act -- is not the answer, and we caution the public from falling prey to this endless fear mongering, devoid of facts and ungrounded in reality," the Legal Aid Society said, referring to the city's troubled jail complex.
Marie VanNostrand, an analyst with Luminosity, which studies criminal justice data, said she had not seen the city's data but the mayor's suggestion that a small number of people were being arrested, released and then rearrested for serious crimes is consistent with other data on the subject.
"The number of people being arrested now who have pending cases -- which is what the mayor is referencing -- has in fact increased. Now, the causes of that aren't necessarily clear," she said.
"The mayor made some reference to bail reform ... We also know that cases are going on longer because of the pandemic court closures and those types of things. So there's certainly potentially competing causal factors."
Still, VanNostrand said violent crime and gun violence are increasing across the country, including in states that have not implemented bail reform.
New York state passed bail reform legislation in 2019, making "release before trial automatic for most people accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies," according to the Vera Institute of Justice. Three months after the law went into effect, it was amended to allow judges to institute cash bail in more situations.
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