Standing in front of a Cypress Hills bodega this afternoon, gubernatorial hopeful U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D Long Island, Queens) called on the state legislature to rollback bail reform laws he says are responsible for the city’s recent violent crime wave.
Suozzi, a candidate in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, has made the dramatic increase in crime a core issue of his campaign in an attempt to take some support away from Gov. Kathy Hochul – the race’s frontrunner.
The congressman said a recent armed robbery of the bodega he was standing in front of – Marien Grocery Corp.– was representative of the city’s nearly 50 percent increase in crime from last year to this year. He also referenced that a human leg had been discovered this morning not far from where he was speaking, as well as a human torso that was found in East New York last week.
Suozzi joined the growing chorus of moderate electeds repeatedly blaming the recent rise in violent crime on bail reforms passed by the state legislature back in 2019.
“I’m here today because we’re very concerned that crime is a growing problem,” Suozzi said. “The mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, went up to Albany a few weeks ago and he said, ‘Listen, the bail reform law is not working. It’s not keeping our people safe in New York City. We can’t arrest people and then let them out right away, regardless of how dangerous they are.’”
Suozzi was referencing a trip Mayor Eric Adams took to Albany last month, where he unsuccessfully tried to convince Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stuart Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to make changes to the bail reforms that took effect in early 2020. These reforms eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies – but allowed judges to continue imposing bail for most violent offenses.
There’s a simple solution to this problem, Suozzi said: instituting what is known as a “dangerousness standard.” This would give judges the discretion to hold a person who’s been arrested for a crime that isn’t bail eligible under the state’s current law in jail, if they determine the person is too dangerous to be released.
“We have to give the judges in New York State the discretion to look at the dangerousness of the people that come before them,” Suozzi said. “Even if they’re there for a low level crime, look at their prior records to determine if they’re a danger to the public. We keep on reading stories every day about people who get arrested and then re-arrested and let out. And re-arrested again and led out. And re-arrested again.”
According to published reports, state data has shown that only 2 percent of those released after being arrested are re-arrested for violent crimes. When asked about the idea that there isn’t a direct correlation between the bail reforms and the rise in crime, Suozzi said, “it’s just common sense.”
“People think we need more data, we need more statistics,” Suozzi said. “It’s only because of the pandemic. How can it be that so many people disagree with that, except for the governor and the state Senate and the state Assembly? They’re not listening to the people.”
Marte said bodega owners are on edge with the recent rise in crime because the businesses have become a frequent target of violent incidents.
“Two months ago, two young guys, they were killed in two different incidents that happened in bodegas,” Marte said. “One (was) 18-years old. The other one was 20-years-old. We’ve been having these problems all over the city.”
Reyna railed against the “defund the police” movement and said their campaign wants to re-center the issue of public safety.
“We cannot allow for a group of teens to enter a bodega because they feel like terrorizing a small business owner and his workers day in day out,” Reyna said. “It is unacceptable behavior. It questions the morale of our society. And for us to stand on the sidelines is no longer acceptable.”