Mayor Eric Adams Thursday lashed out at the state’s lax criminal justice, legislative and social services system after learning the perpetrator who allegedly smeared his own feces on a woman’s face was released without bail – despite having a lengthy rap sheet.
Frank Abrokwa, 37, was arrested on Feb. 28 for the Feb. 21 incident in the Bronx’s East 241 Street subway station. After making jokes about his crappy crime and cursing at the judge, Abrokwa was released without bail pending his trial, despite the prosecutor’s request to set bail at $5,000 cash or $15,000 bond.
Almost immediately after being released, he was re-arrested for a Sept. 9 hate crime against a Jewish man in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Abrokwa has been arrested more than 20 times since 1999, including 22 unsealed arrests and even more sealed ones. And yet, Bronx Criminal Court Judge Judge Wanda Licitra released Abrokwa onto the city streets without bail.
“This individual should not be out on the streets of New York and his release shows the scope of changes that we need to make in order to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Adams said in a press statement. “It is the result of a failed mental health system, a failed housing and support system, and failing criminal justice laws that allow someone with a history of violence who poses a clear threat to public safety to just walk out of court. We can’t allow this horrific situation to be the status quo and must make changes to our laws to both prevent these sort of attacks, through intervention and support, and, when they happen, to subsequently keep people who are clearly a danger to others off the street.”
Following Adams’ statement, PoliticsNY reached out to some of the city’s and state’s top government officials to ask what laws need to be changed to prevent situations like Abrokwa’s.
A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) referred PoliticsNY to four prior press releases from the governor’s office on the topics of mental health, homelessness and housing inequality.
“For too long our mental healthcare system suffered from disinvestment, and the pandemic has only made things harder for New Yorkers with serious mental illness who are experiencing homelessness,” Hochul is quoted saying in a Feb. 18 press release sent to PoliticsNY about increased funding for psychiatric beds and professionals in hospitals. “I am proud to stand with Mayor Adams and share our efforts to boost mental health treatment services for those who lack stable housing, and bring more psychiatric beds online. We must work together to keep our subways — the lifeblood of New York City — safe for all riders, and to get help and services to those in need.
The plan discussed in the release related mainly to hospitals, but also includes “$12.5 million annually for 500 additional supportive housing beds to house people experiencing homelessness in their communities.” The goal of this plan is to bring unhoused people out of the subways and streets and into shelters.
A Request for Proposals was also issued by the State’s Office of Mental Health to create “Safe Opinions Support Teams,” which Hochul announced in her State of the State address. The teams will have clinicians, nurses, social workers and behavioral health specialists on the ground in the subways and streets to work with unhoused and mentally ill individuals.
None of the press releases provided by the state spokesperson touched on the subject of bail reform, however, which is arguably the most direct and immediate way to impact these kinds of situations, as with Abrokwa.
Licitra, the judge in the poop smearing case, could have held Abrokwa under the July 1, 2020 bail legislation. While the legislation does prohibit courts from allowing bail for certain crimes, for people considered “persistent offenders” — which seems to describe Abrokwa — cash bail can be set for any kind of felony.
Adams Spokesperson Fabien Levy said the mayor wants to make sure judges take into account whether or not a person is dangerous before letting them back onto the streets, like the other 49 states do.
“The mayor has been clear that public safety is his top priority, but this is not just his agenda, but New York City’s agenda,” Levy told PoliticsNY. “Three-in-four city residents want action on crime, so we are taking action to do that. It’s time we all work together to keep New Yorkers safe.”
The offices of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D — Bronx) and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Steward-Cousins’ (D — Yonkers) did not respond to a request for comment at post time.
At the time of his arrest for the feces assault, Abrokwa’s address was listed as 760 East 160 Street in the Bronx, but when he was re-arrested his address was listed as Ana’s Place Men’s Shelter. 4380 Bronx Avenue, also in the Bronx.