Mayor Adams doubles down on Raise the Age reform

Mayor Eric Adams announces an investigation by the Business Integrity Commission at JFK Airport on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams Wednesday again raised the specter of taking another look at the state’s Raise the Age (RTA) laws.

Passed in 2018 when crime was fairly low, RTA made it so all 16 and 17-year-olds who commit non-violent crimes will have their cases heard in Family Court and receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need. Prior to that, 16 and 17-year olds were treated as adults in the criminal courts and housed in adult prisons and jails. 

RTA also created a new crime category, Adolescent Offender (AO) in which 16 or 17-years-olds accused of committing a felony-level crime have their cases heard in the Youth Part of Criminal Court, a new court that is a part of Supreme Court, where adult felony cases are prosecuted.

However, with the rise in crime there have been several incidents with teenagers involved with violent crime. This includes the recent brawl between cops and a teenager in the subway, which has drawn the ire of Mayor Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams

“I want us to look at the loophole that if someone is carrying a loaded firearm and the bullets are inoperable, that they’re not treated with the same level, I want us to look at keeping violent juveniles in criminal court,” said Adams at a press conference at JFK Airport in Queens early Wednesday afternoon. 

“They should not be turned over to family court. I want us to look at if a person is arrested and they are in juvenile court, we should be able to look at the Family Court if it’s a violent offender. So there are a list of things that we turned over throughout our pursuit to use a scaffold looking at the existing laws so we can get it right,” he added.

Mayor Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy said as per Adams’ Blueprint to End Gun Violence, the administration would like to see at least one change – that 16 or 17-year-olds charged with gun possession who refuse to cooperate with law enforcement authorities on where they got the weapon have to face criminal court and not juvenile court.

Adams’ remarks Wednesday follows his remarks two days earlier on Monday when he told reporters that hoped state lawmakers would reconvene in Albany for a special session to address crime and look at the state’s bail laws. However, Governor Kathy Hochul shut that prospect down on Tuesday and reminded her constituents that when the state budget passed in April, Albany already made “significant changes to the bail laws.”

In an attempt to show he was not entirely repudiated by state leaders, Adams mentioned a conversation with Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

“I had a long conversation with the Speaker of the Assembly and we agreed to look over some of the data that the New York City Police Department is going to present on how we are having too many repeated offenders on non-bail eligible crime. And it was a great conversation and we’re going to continue to be vociferous on this topic because New Yorkers I believe deserve better,” Adams told reporters. 

However, the Speaker seemed to disagree with Adams’ characterization of their conversation when a spokesperson tweeted after the press conference.

“The bulk of the Speaker’s conversation with the Mayor centered around the fact that the crimes he was referring to were bail eligible and detention eligible in family court. The Mayor asked if he could share some data and the Speaker said of course,” the tweet read. 

The Speaker is a longstanding proponent of the 2019 bail reform law and RTA and supported the state legislature’s efforts countering Hochul’s more drastic proposed reversals to the bail laws during budget negotiations in April.

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