Weak-on-crime policies are rapidly showing their worst effects, as New York’s law abolishing bail enters its first full week. The results are so bad that even Democrats are now clamoring to save face and make changes to the law. Trump and Republicans would be wise to watch and learn from New York that they should not only jump off the criminal justice so-called “reform” bandwagon, but actually push policies getting tougher on criminals while relentlessly campaigning against those who side with violent criminals, gangsters, and drug traffickers.
Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the NYPD is on high alert in light of tensions with Iran following the killing of Qassem Soleimani. However, the streets of the city are likely in greater danger from domestic criminals as a result of the jailbreak policies his party supported, and on that account, the police are actually on low alert out of fear of losing their jobs.
The NYPD announced that homicides jumped eight percent in 2019, and that is before the enactment of most of the pro-criminal laws. This comes on the heels of other data showing violent crime on the rise in parts of the city and on subways. That is very significant, given that murder rates fell every year since the Giuliani era in the early 1990s until the past few years. The great miracle of New York’s reduction in crime is being eaten away before our eyes, yet the politicians are focusing on making it tougher for police and prosecutors.
What can New York expect this year? Well, given that most crimes are committed by repeat offenders, and the repeat offenders will now roam the streets, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to foresee the results. While many of those released without bail under the new law have just committed terrible crimes, what is often overlooked is that many are repeat offenders who have committed much worse crimes in the past.
For example, last Thursday, Tyquan Rivera of Rochester was released from jail after he was arrested on drug charges. The political system now treats drug trafficking as a minor crime, but the reality is that many people picked up for drugs had prior convictions for violent crimes. Locking them up on “lower”-level crimes is how we’ve kept the violent crime rate down for over two decades. Rivera is no different. In 2009, he was convicted of shooting Rochester police officer Anthony DiPonzio in the back of the head. Thanks to weak sentencing, he was out on the streets in 2016 to commit more crimes. Now that he has been picked up on drug charges, the new anti-bail law doesn’t take into account his serious criminal record. He will remain free indefinitely.
“Courts have been stripped of much of their discretion in determining whether a defendant should be held pending disposition of his/her case,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley in a statement to CR. “Rather, the court now looks to a structure of Qualifying vs. Non-Qualifying offenses where dangerousness or threat to public safety cannot be considered. If a defendant is accused of a ‘non-qualifying’ offense, the court must release the defendant on his/her own recognizance or set non-monetary conditions of release.” Thus, in the case of Rivera, even though he was previously convicted for attempted murder of a cop and was arrested this time for allegedly selling fentanyl to undercover officers on two separate occasions, he walked out of the courtroom back to the streets.
How many more people as violent as Rivera will be let back onto the streets? It could be thousands. Think about all those people who rang in the new year with drunk driving and killed pedestrians or motorists. They are all out of jail. Farkell Hopkins was arrested for killing a pedestrian on New Year’s Eve while driving at twice the legal drinking limit. He was immediately released.
The jailbreak law applies retroactively to some of the worst criminals already in jail awaiting trial, too. In July, Paul Barbaritano was arrested in Albany for allegedly strangling a 29-year-old woman with a karate belt and then slitting her throat. However, because he is only charged with second-degree murder, he was released on January 2, despite his rap sheet, which includes a conviction for robbery.
Likewise, in North Westchester, a 27-year-old man who was caught last week breaking into a girl’s bedroom and was later found to have committed theft earlier that night was released. Under the current law, those crimes are considered low-level felonies.
Democrats are already facing such backlash from the bail “reform” bill that they are talking about modifying it. But rather than granting them cover to very partially fix one aspect of a more systemic problem, American citizens need to keep up the pressure and focus on the broader picture. Liberals in both parties are promoting radical leniencies across every part of the criminal justice system, not just in the context of pretrial jail time, but even in post-conviction prison time.
Last Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo freed Monica Szlekovics, a woman who was convicted of a brutal murder in 1996. He pardoned her 23 years before she was even eligible for parole, citing her “extreme, ongoing physical and psychological abuse from her husband” as an excuse for her violent past, which include helping her husband with several kidnappings and murder. But the problem with liberals in states like California and New York is that they want to have it both ways with the plea of mental illness. They want to say criminals can’t be held culpable for their heinous crimes because they are incorrigibly ill, but at the same time they want to abolish confinement in psychiatric hospitals. They want them released on the streets to commit more crimes that they supposedly just can’t help committing.
This is the nightmare we will all live through in every major city unless we find a party willing to champion the victims and law-abiding citizens the way Reagan did. Several years’ worth of weak-on-crime policies are beginning to take their toll in many parts of the country.
At present, 100 percent of the focus on criminal justice issues, even in GOP-run states, is all about the criminal and how we can further reduce the prison population. We must remember Reagan’s admonishment that “for too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system.” “Rarely do we give victims the help they need or the attention they deserve,” said Reagan in an April 8, 1981, proclamation creating National Crime Victims Week. “Yet the protection of our citizens — to guard them from becoming victims — is the primary purpose of our penal laws. Thus, each new victim personally represents an instance in which our system has failed to prevent crime. Lack of concern for victims compounds that failure.”
The time has come for Trump to jettison the Koch influence in his White House and return to his long-held view on criminal justice, which tracked closely with Reagan’s. As he wrote in his book, “The America We Deserve,” “The next time you hear someone saying there are too many people in prison, ask them how many thugs they’re willing to relocate to their neighborhood. The answer: None.”
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.