Lawmakers blame bail reform for increase in crime

WWNY Lawmakers blame bail reform for increase in crime

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Members of the state Assembly's minority committee say crime is on the rise in cities around New York.

In a news conference this month, they pointed to the state's bail reform laws as one reason.

Assembly Miniority Leader Will Barclay says the increase in crime can be seen as close as Syracuse.

"Homicides are up 21 percent and burglaries are up 31 percent," said Barclay (R. - Pulaski).

North county Assemblyman Mark Walczyk says it's no coincidence.

"This is even predictable. We said, if you allow criminals to go without penalty and release them back out on the street, they're going to commit that crime again," said Walczyk (R. - 116th District).

Katie Schaffer works with the Center for Community Alternatives, an organization with offices around the state which seeks to reduce reliance on incarceration.

Schaffer says bail reform had been working and arguments of reform causing a rise in crime don't hold up.

"The New York Post, for example, examined all of the cases of shootings in New York City, which there has been an increase. And that is something that really needs to be addressed. But, they examined all of the cases of shootings and there is only one case where somebody who was released because of bail reform was involved in that incident," she said.

Bail reform amendments passed in the state's budget this year, expanding the list of offenses bail can be imposed on, took effect at the start of July.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary Pasqua says another change could be giving judges more discretion.

"On felony charges, when you're dealing with individuals who, in many cases, are dangerous, who are going to go out and re-offend - those are the situations where judges should have that discretion in terms of, 'this individual is someone who needs to be held on bail,'" said Pasqua.

But Schaffer says judges have had that discretion in the past.

"Judges overwhelmingly set the two most onerous types of bail. They set cash bail and commercial bail bonds, for-profit bail bonds and that meant that there were tens of thousands of New Yorkers every day in jail on bail they could not afford," she said.

New York's initial bail reform laws eliminated cash bail for most defendants - those charged with misdemeanors and non violent felonies.

The new rollbacks allow judges to impose bail on more crimes, like sex trafficking and some domestic violence offenses.

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